I work hard. I’ve been known to stay at work until the lights shut off at 10:30p and my mind takes me to a Lifetime Original Movie where the ending doesn’t quite work out so well for the only woman left in the office after dark. Occasionally, I’ve come in on a Saturday afternoon, and while on vacation I like to check my email just about every 90 minutes or so. It’s a bad habit, but nevertheless, I wouldn’t consider myself a workaholic.
There are women I’ve come across though, who are suffering from the serious addiction of workaholism, as I like to call it, and in need of an intervention—ASAP. You know, the woman who is first in the office and last out, who eats breakfast, lunch, and dinner at her desk, and who never takes advantage of the go-home early mandates the boss rarely hands out before a long holiday weekend, in exchange for “just finishing up a couple of things,” which usually means at least 2-3 more hours of work.
This is my work environment and when I joined the staff, I felt compelled to adhere to the corporate culture—eating at my desk, staying late every night, answering emails within 30 seconds—but even when I was told that I wasn’t expected to put in those hours, the behavior continued. I would work because, frankly, I had nothing else to do and working 24/7 made me feel important. “Work fulfills me,” I’d think proudly as I typed away on my computer on Friday and Saturday nights, but the truth is, work shouldn’t and can’t be everything to you. You need relationships with people outside of work, you need hobbies outside of the office, and you need to not always feel compelled to be doing something. Relaxation is allowed—it’s healthy and it should be encouraged.
A wise, senior member of our staff once told an old coworker that her father always regarded anyone who stayed late as incapable of completing their work in the required time. This gem was passed along to me, and I couldn’t agree more. Of course there are times when work can’t be completed in just 8 hours, and depending on your career aspirations, there is a time for kissing up, a time for staying late, and a time for impressing. But there is also a time to examine the real reason behind living as a workaholic.
Being addicted to work—or possibly afraid to appear as though you don’t give 120% to your job—is just as bad as any other addiction. More often than not, there is something underneath—insecurity, fear of failure, anxiety to go home, a desire to appear indispensible etc.—that keeps us in the office around the clock. I work hard because of a personal sense of accountability to meet deadlines and fulfill the duties of my position, but I don’t feel an obligation to appear overly busy all of the time, or to complete unnecessary and ineffective tasks to project a guise of unmatched dedication.
During one of my end-of-the-year reviews, my boss made me agree to always leave the office no later than 6pm, and preferably before then. She also advised that there will always be work to do and never enough time to do it, so it’s unfair to not allow yourself to take time off and enjoy the vacation days that your company allots you. While she may not follow this advice herself, I have come to see the light outside of the cubicle, and as a recovering almost-workaholic, I’d encourage you to as well.