The importance of managerial support in combating workaholism

Last year a Norwegian study suggested that workaholism may be a form of mental illness.  The study examined over 16,000 adults whereby each participant was quizzed for things such as ADHD, OCD and their workaholic score using the scale above.

When the numbers were crunched, the results revealed a clear link between workaholism and a number of psychiatric disorders.  Among those who showed signs of workaholism, rates of anxiety, depression, OCD and ADHD were significantly higher than their non-workaholic peers.

Indeed, some 32.7% of workaholics met ADHD criteria (20% higher than normal), 25.6% showed OCD behaviors (17% higher than normal) and 34% showed signs of anxiety, which was a whopping 22% higher than normal.

Regulating behavior

A fresh study suggests that managers can play a big part in preventing workaholism.  The authors believe that more should be done to raise awareness of the harmful consequences of workaholism, especially when it involves turning up for work when ill.  Consequently, this also reinforces the value inherent in appropriate rest and recuperation.

“Managers should be trained to develop supportive leadership skills that are able to function as a protective factor buffering the detrimental association between an overwhelming compulsion to work and presenteeism,” the authors say.

If you’re unsure of whether a colleague (or even yourself) is a workaholic, a test was created by a team of Norwegian researchers a few years go.

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.”