As long as you enjoy your work, being a workaholic may not be bad for your emotional and physical health.
Do you know someone who works every chance they get, feels driven to keep working hard after others have stopped and even misses their work when on vacation? These are the characteristics of a “workaholic”. There are a wide variety of opinions about workaholism. Some people view workaholics positively because they believe workaholism leads to increased productivity. Others, however, view workaholics negatively because they believe workaholism leads to unhappiness, health problems and stress for co-workers. Which view is more accurate? To help answer that question a researcher from the school of business at
conducted a questionnaire study. York University
What was the research about?
A total of 530 MBA graduates, who had all graduated some time prior to 1996, completed a mailed questionnaire. The questionnaire asked respondents to report how involved with work they were, how driven they felt to work hard, how much they enjoyed work, their psychological well-being, any psychosomatic symptoms experienced in the past year (e.g., headaches), their lifestyle behaviors (e.g., how often they exercised) and emotional well-being.
Respondents who reported being highly involved with their work and very driven to work hard were classified as workaholics. Results showed that only workaholics who didn’t enjoy their work reported poorer psychological well-being, more psychosomatic symptoms, less healthy lifestyle behaviors and poorer emotional well-being than non-workaholics. Workaholics who did enjoy their work were just as psychologically and emotionally well as the non-workaholics. Therefore, how much a person enjoys their work, instead of how hard they work, seems to be the best predictor of their psychological and emotional well-being.
Why should it matter to me?
When we think someone is a workaholic we may get a negative impression of that person because we think they are a slave to their job and suffer the consequences. This impression may be completely inaccurate. Some workaholics may work so much just because they enjoy their job a lot, and this doesn’t appear to be such a bad thing, at least as far as their psychological and emotional health is concerned.
One important point to keep in mind, however, is the results of this study are only correlational and don’t necessarily mean that enjoying work causes that person to experience better psychological and emotional well-being. An alternative conclusion could be the reverse; that having better psychological and emotional well-being causes the person to enjoy their work more. More research needs to be done before these two explanations are sorted out, but this study does show there is an important relationship between work enjoyment and a person’s well-being.
Source: Burke, Ronald J. (2000). Workaholism in Organizations: Psychological and Physical Well-Being Consequences. Stress Medicine. 16, 11-16.