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How Being A Workaholic Differs From Working Long Hours

Is it working long hours that increases our risk of developing health issues? Or is it something else, like Michael’s compulsive work mentality, that is harmful for health? Workaholism often goes hand in hand with working long hours, but the two are distinct: it’s possible to work long hours without being obsessed with work, and it is possible to be obsessed with work but only work 35 hours a week or less. The survey asked about participants’ workaholic tendencies, their work skills, work motivation, and their work hours in an average week. We found that workaholics, whether or not they worked long hours, reported more health complaints and had increased risk for metabolic syndrome; they also reported a higher need for recovery, more sleep problems, more cynicism, more emotional exhaustion, and more depressive feelings than employees who merely worked long hours but did not have workaholic tendencies. If we look at all of our examples, it’s clear that while Hanna, Michael, and Linda all work hard, the way they engage with work differs substantially, and hence, their health risk differs as well. These stories and our research findings reveal two key messages: First, when it comes to effects on health, working long hours is not as bad as obsessing over work. This warrants an important disclaimer: The employees in our sample worked a maximum of 65 hours per week, and therefore we do not know the health outcomes of working longer hours.

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