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You need your employees to contribute 100 percent to the success of your company. This is business reality: You have shareholders’ demands to meet and a product to sell. At the end of the day, the bottom line needs to be black if you’re going to survive.

Today’s technology has made working around the clock much easier, as workers literally never lose connection to their responsibilities. This can be an advantage, but only within reason. Beyond a certain point, there is a significant cost for every hour logged in the case of overwhelmed, work-addicted team members.

It’s for Real

Workaholism does exist. Addiction to work is classified as an obsessive compulsive disorder. OCDs are characterized by a combination of thoughts that become mind-encompassing obsessions and the compulsive behavior that results from the desire to satisfy them. For instance, a workaholic may be too tired to complete a task, but will nevertheless keep working in order to ward off anxiety. In some cases, individuals become physically ill if unable to work.

  • Results of a recent Harvard Business Review study show that working more than 70 hours a week hurts performance at roughly the same level as being inebriated. Compulsive work can release naturally-occurring chemicals that affect the brain in the same way abused drugs release such substances. The brain reacts by sending garbled messages to the body.
  • Sleep loss has similar effects. Going 20 hours without sleep affects the body in the same way as a 0.1 blood alcohol level, which is equivalent to five or six drinks for an average person.
  • Actual alcoholism is more likely in workaholics. The percentage is three times higher in those who work more than 50 hours a week.
  • Working marathon hours can pose a cardiac risk. There is a 67 percent greater chance of heart disease in persons who consistently work 11-hour versus eight-hour days.
  • Productivity takes a dive. Fifty percent of employees are less productive as a result of stress.

The Solution

The workaholism breaking point is different for each person, but a universal sign is a sense of all-consuming guilt and anxiety for taking time off. While passion for work is an asset, this goes well beyond normal boundaries in the case of workaholics, as it’s no longer a choice. Rather, it has taken over their lives.

The solution – to provide the most benefit to your employees and your business – is to fully support team members as they maintain work/life balance.

  • Remind people that they have a choice. If they feel overwhelmed by work, they can change the way things are going. Encourage them to separate their work and personal life. If you help them strike this critical balance, you can expect higher productivity, satisfaction and morale.
  • Teamwork is the ticket. A recent study researched a team of high-powered consultants to see if they could disconnect after working hours. The key to preventing workaholism proved to be teamwork. With collaborative efforts to solidify their time off, they communicated more, assisted one another and held each other accountable for maintaining mutual support. As a team, they drew the line on overworking and set a new norm for their company.
  • Teach and practice time management. Limit meetings and email interruptions. Have employees use GoToMeeting in place of face-to-face interactions. Teach them to stay in touch with colleagues and customers, keep them in the communication loop and let them know when they are unavailable.
  • Be sure your policy has teeth. Lip service won’t work here. It takes top-down commitment that cascades throughout the organization. The results can be stunning. One Provo, Utah based HR software firm implemented an anti-workaholic policy that required employees to limit hours to 40 a week and leave every day at 5 p.m. The company consistently enforced its policy – and succeeded in tripling its revenue to $10 million within a year.

For additional resources on maximizing productivity while maintaining the health and well-being of your workforce, contact the expert recruitment team at BrainWorks today.


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