stressed out man

Are You a Hard Worker or a Workaholic?

In Small Business by Ryan Freeman

“It’s official: Your job is killing you.”

Now there’s a phrase that begs you to click for more info. When that popped up in my Twitter feed, I just had to read more.

Man Frustrated with Hands on his Head.

The link went to an article on that said stress on the job can shave almost three years off your life. Yikes.

The article referenced studies that link job stress to a variety of problems, including lack of concentration, frequent colds, nervous habits, nausea, poor judgment, unexplained aches and pains, and much more.

Among the top job stressors: fear of getting laid off or fired, the absence of health insurance, long hours, and growing rifts between work and home life.

For small business owners, these last two probably resonate the most.

So where’s the line between working hard and working too much?

I dug around and found lots of articles that distinguish hard workers from workaholics. Here’s a summary:

Hard workers work overtime occasionally when it’s absolutely necessary (ahem, early February). Workaholics, on the other hand, compulsively work long hours, often on the weekends, and through vacation time. They are physically addicted to work. This could mean 12-to-14-hour work days, seven days a week. They neglect family, friends, and their own health, to a sometimes irreversible point.

There are a lot of reasons people become workaholics. Some people don’t trust others to do a good job. Others wear busyness as a badge of order.

I’ve been guilty of both.

I remember back in college, it felt like everyone competed to see who did the most. This was before texting was prevalent and we all used “AIM” (AOL instant messenger). None of us ever bothered to sign off when we left to go to the class or the gym. Instead we put up an away message (the status update of the time, if you will) that was almost always a laundry list of what we had to do. The longer the list, the important we felt. In hind sight, I can see a) how narcissistic that was b) how many hours I threw away saying “yes” to every activity or leadership position that came my way.

Here are four questions the experts say can help you identify if you fall into the workaholic camp:

1. Do you work far more than 40 hours per week?

2. Do you feel a continual urge to prove that you’re the best among my colleagues?

3. Do you recognize signs of intense insecurity in yourself about work?

4. Are your personal and work lives balanced?

If you think you are a workaholic, start by identifying which tasks are essential and which you can delegate and/or tackle during a slower period. Slowly whittle away extraneous tasks until you feel you have stress under control. Easier said than done, of course!

(originally posted on our sister blog at: