By David Sturt and Todd Nordstrom
Credit: Getty Royalty Free
We’ve all experienced what it feels like to be overwhelmed at work—the long nights trying to hit deadlines, preparing for a big presentation or analyzing that seemingly endless task list you need to tackle. “That’s normal,” says Bryan Robinson, Ph.D., a licensed psychotherapist who studies and treats work addiction. “When people become overwhelmed by the absence of that hectic schedule, well, that’s when it’s not normal. Work addiction is not good for your performance, and it’s not good for your health.”
While many organizations are spending more time focusing on the well-being of employees, Robinson told us that our current corporate culture still has a long way to go in recognizing work addiction as a serious problem. “Sometimes people joke about it,” he said. “And, some corporate cultures actually applaud those who never stop working. But, they’re missing the bigger picture. Work addiction and a strong work ethic are two very different things. A strong work ethic will build you a solid career. Work addiction will destroy the rest of your life.”
While the two of us spend our days researching, writing, and speaking about how both leaders and employees can improve performance and love their work, we struggled a bit to understand the line between work addiction and work ethic.
“The line is actually quite clear,” said Robinson. “I like to use skiing as an example. On a snowy day, do you sit in the office and dream about being on the slopes? Or, are you the type of person, when you are on the slopes, who dreams about stress and has anxiety about how fast you can get back to work?”
Robinson continued to explain the reality of work addiction. He explained how it is just as real and dangerous as any other addiction. “Work addicts use work as medication. It creates a false sense of control. It becomes a false tool to handle anxiety. It provides the addict with something they can attach themselves to that makes them feel safe. But work addicts often don’t realize they have an addiction,” he said. “Often times it’s a spouse or loved one who demands a change, because the addiction starts to destroy their personal life.”
While speaking with Robinson we both recalled people we’ve known who may have been work addicts—people who lost sight of boundaries in their life because their work took priority over everything else. And while Robinson wouldn’t reveal any stories about any of the people he’s treated for work addiction, he did share stories about himself—also a recovering work addict.
“I remember going to the beach with a bunch of friends,” he said. “They wanted to go explore and have fun. I was waiting for them to leave so I could sneak in some work. I was hiding it just like a drug addict would hide their use.”
Robinson is an expert on work addiction in numerous ways. He studies it. He treats it. He lived it. And, now he’s releasing a new book about it, aptly titled #Chill: Turn Off Your Job And Turn On Your Life.
“This book has been a long time in the making,” said Robinson. “I wanted to give people like me a tool that can help them through addiction.”
We asked if he had any tips for our readers, especially those who might be questioning whether or not they’re addicted to work. And we also wanted to know if he had any advice for corporate leaders.
- “If you’re asking the question, you probably need some guidance,” said Robinson. He told us that many addicts immediately understand the feeling of anxiety about stepping away from their work. “Many people know there’s an issue but avoid dealing with it because numerous aspects of our society reward the behavior.”
- “Trust that your life will be better,” he added. “Work addicts often worry that they’ll make less money, be bored, be more anxious, and might be miserable if they actually learn to chill. I am living proof. I’m much happier now.”
- “For corporate leaders, I like to see companies adopting well-being programs,” he said. “I like that organizations are offering fitness and yoga classes. I hear about companies teaching mindfulness and trying harder to provide better balance for employees. Those are all great things.”
- “One more thing,” Robinson said. “Some leaders might worry that if their work addicted employees find balance, they’ll be less productive. And that might be true in the very short term. But, the opposite is true. Happier, balanced, healthy people produce better results. And, they don’t become shooting stars.”
After talking to Robinson, the two of us wondered if we had any form of work addiction. He offers a ‘How Chill Are You?’ online assessment if you’re curious about yourself. And, although we won’t share our results with all of our readers, we will say this—both of us are dreaming about being on the slopes.
Read the full article here.
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