Work addiction is a reality in the 21st century

Marelize Santana -- Mon, 07/02/2018 - 10:20

Work addiction is a reality in the 21st century

Organisational interventions should aim to help young adults and managers to suppress and inhibit workaholic tendencies and maintain a positive work-life balance. This is what Prof Cecelie Schou Andreassen from the University of Bergen in Norway said during a guest lecture hosted by the Optentia research focus area on the North-West University’s (NWU’s) campus in Vanderbijlpark.

Prof Andreassen commented on how the work market has been changing due to globalisation and the rapid development of technology. “These days, people seem to be able to work longer and harder,” she said and continued that the typical workaholic will spend many hours at work. Such a person will find themselves concerned about work and will be unable to detach from work-related matters.

The term “workaholic” was coined by late author and psychologist Wayne Oates who wrote the book Confessions of a workaholic: the facts about work addiction. Since then, there has been an increased attention and research into the reality of workaholism.

For Prof Andreassen, the interest lies a bit closer to home. She shared the story of her father who worked very hard, even on days like Christmas. He was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2007, but even worked on writing a book while in hospital. An intense interest was ignited in Prof Andreassen, who had been researching stress and work since 2002, to understand work addiction.

Prof Cecelie Schou Andreassen

She puts forward that it is not to be confused with being hard working. A workaholic is overly concerned with work and driven by an uncontrollable work motivation. Such a person would put so much time and energy into work, that it has a detrimental effect on other areas in his/her life such as relationships, self-caring and general health.

It is difficult to determine the exact cause of such an addiction, but the dominant personality traits of a workaholic can often be observed as neuroticism, being prone to stress, narcissism and perfectionism. Links may also be drawn between workaholism and certain family dynamics such as upbringing and over-protective parents. The irony is that sufferers of workaholism will show a poorer work performance. They will, for example, work hard but typically produce less, which further contributes to its negative outcomes in the long run: burnout and psychosomatic symptoms such as poor sleep and lower job and life satisfaction.

Prof Cecilie Schou Andreassen is a Norwegian psychology specialist in clinical work with drug and addictions. She is a professor of clinical psychology at the University of Bergen in Norway. She has authored approximately 70 peer-reviewed scientific papers. Her main research interests involve work and organisational psychology and behavioural addictions such as workaholism, social media addiction, exercise addiction, sex and shopping addiction.