Your Title Isn’t Workaholic: Changing the Culture of Your Workplace

Business.com / Strategy / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Americans are amongst the worst in the world when it comes to over-working, but we're not getting more done. What gives?

We all know them: the guy or gal whose dinner is always cold because they're in the office well past mealtime, or the colleague whose perfectionism means all-nighters that didn’t end with college.

We know them and we may even be them. In fact, these are the kind of people that startup culture thrives on. According to a recent infographic, 85.8% of males and 66.5% of females work more than 40 hours a week. And, get this—the Japanese have a term for “working until death,” but American workers average 137 more hours per year than their Japanese counterparts.

Competition, deadlines and an aggressive determination to work until a breakthrough happens—even if it happens at 2 AM—are the character traits that built this system, and it’s time for a change. The very things that startup junkies think make their field the best are actually personally destructive signs of unrelenting workaholic habits. This culture is not sustainable and it isn’t even the best way to get things done.

Maybe you’re not a workaholic, but if you work in any corner of corporate America, from the newest startup to the big established companies, you probably are—or you at least have some of the traits. Believe it or not, other countries manage on less and get as much or more accomplished. It can be done.

The profile below is a hypothetical workaholic, but read with care—can you see yourself in this portrait? If these characteristics resonate with you, you might just be a workaholic.

Related Article: How to Change Your Company Culture Mid-Stream

You Can’t Even Hear The Dinner Conversation

Believe it or not, you can still make it to family dinner on time and be a workaholic. Showing up at the table is not enough. Did you hear what your daughter said about the school play? Or the question your wife asked about the weekend plans? A workaholic can show up and still be tethered to their computer. Whether they’re mentally reviewing emails they received earlier in the day or drafting tomorrow’s outgoing reminders, the workaholic never unplugs.

working at the dinner table

Smart phones have only exacerbated this particular workaholic problem. It’s hard to resist the pull of email when it’s right there in your pocket, and even worse when you can feel the little alert buzz reminding you that the workday doesn’t have to end—not if you don’t let it.

Resist the urge. Leave your phone upstairs. It really can wait.

Related Article: Down With TV Dinners: The Balancing Act of Working Parents

You Mainline Coffee But Can’t Make Time for Coffee with Friends

We know that any red blooded American adult can barely open an eyelid in the morning without a cup of coffee, but for you, coffee is more than just the fuel that allows your day to start. No, coffee is an absolute necessity at all hours. There are the two cups before you leave the house in the morning, another when you arrive at work, a 10 AM coffee break in the office kitchen, and that’s just the before lunch caffeine jolts. You can’t help it—you were up so late last night compiling today’s to-do list that you would drift off at your desk without it.

addicted to coffee

At the same time that you might as well be pumping coffee directly into your veins, you bump into old friends and mutter an apology that you’re busy but you should get coffee sometime. But as we all know, definitely means maybe and sometimes means never and you haven’t got time to sit down and chat over coffee.

Coffee is only for fueling more hours at your desk and not for socializing with friends.

Related Article: Is Coffee Roasting Your Productivity?

You Think Everyone Around You is Slacking

Why is it that your employees and colleagues seem to have hobbies and vacation days and all of these leisure hours that you can’t imagine? As it turns out, they aren’t slacking—you’ve just taken careerism to an extreme. The rest of those folks, well they’re just living their lives, and those lives happen to occur in places that aren’t their desk and sometimes don’t even have internet.

gone fishing sign; slacking coworkers

While you’re busy judging your coworkers for slacking, there’s someone out there who thinks you’re not holding up your end of the deal either. You just haven’t noticed because they aren’t your boss. Rather, the person who comes to mind is your spouse or perhaps your child or maybe even your college roommate who you used to have bowling night with every other Wednesday.

They may not have mentioned it, but the people outside of your office are quietly seething with frustration because you’ve been ignoring them.

It’s Time To Reflect

Do you remember when you used to have a hobby? Or when a family vacation didn’t demand constant internet access and the ability to stop everything to take an important phone call from IT? If these things feel like remnants of the past then there is no question, you’ve become a workaholic.

Now it’s time to do something you like: make a list. But instead of a to-do list, this list should be about priorities. What matters to you? Make an ordered list and then make a graph: what percentage of your time is going to each of these things? If the two are completely out of alignment, something isn’t right in your life. You need a job to pay the bills, but you don’t have to become your job. It’s time to remember who you are when your job isn’t the center of your universe.

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