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Are you addicted to work? Take the test to find out

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Are you addicted to work? Take the test to find out

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By its very nature, balancing tends to be kinda tough, so it’s perhaps no surprise that achieving work life balance is so challenging for so many of us.  I mean it’s something that I’ve discussed on here many times, and the dichotomy is clear.  On one hand I’ve written about the importance of loving what you do and using that passion to invest in yourself and your skills on a regular basis.  That investment will clearly require a degree of your time and effort, right?

On the other hand though the blog has also seen numerous entries on things such as the importance of getting enough sleep, how regular breaks can help our performance and the productivity/engagement benefits of flexible working.  So there’s a clear sense that working all the time is neither healthy or productive.

With the rise in digital tools in the workplace, achieving the right balance appears to be increasingly difficult.  A team of researchers from the University of Bergen in Norway have tried to understand the trend towards workaholism, and gauge both how prevalent it is and why people fall into it.

The team developed a tool to measure addiction to work called the Bergen Work Addiction Scale.  This tool borrowed heavily from tools used to measure drug addiction, and analyzed symptoms such as change in mood, levels of tolerance, salience and so on.  They used this to draw up seven criteria against which they could directly measure workplace addiction:

  • You think of how you can free up more time to work.
  • You spend much more time working than initially intended.
  • You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and/or depression.
  • You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.
  • You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.
  • You deprioritize hobbies, leisure activities, and/or exercise because of your work.
  • You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

“If you reply ‘often’ or ‘always’ to at least four of these seven criteria, there is some indication that you may be a workaholic,” the researchers say. “This is the first scale to use core symptoms of addiction found in other more traditional addictions.”

Of the Norwegians studied, it emerged that 8.3% were classed as workaholics, with very little difference between men and women.  It did seem to afflict younger workers more than their older peers however.

“We did find that younger adults were affected to a greater extent than older workers,” they say. “However, workaholism seems unrelated to gender, education level, marital status or part-time versus full-time employment.”

Interestingly, it was found that workaholics shared a number of key personality traits:

  • Agreeableness (“Mother Teresa” – typically altruistic, compliant, modest)
  • Neuroticism (“Woody Allen” – typically nervous, hostile, impulsive)
  • Intellect/imagination (“Columbus” – typically open for new impulses, inventive, action oriented)

The researchers hope that their study will shed some light both on how many people suffer from workaholism and some of the symptoms of it.  They hope that this will be a first step towards more appropriate treatment for it.  How do you score on their test?

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