Are you a Workaholic? Here are 5 ways to attain Work-Life Balance

The term ‘Workaholism’ may sound familiar to you. For some reason, it has become a ‘fashion statement’ particularly in the corporate world where professionals take pride in saying it loud that they are pressed against the time for themselves and their friends and families. You may also have seen the business executives sitting back long hours at the offices just because their bosses keep sitting and they, in turn, do so because of their higherups and this never-ending thread practically destroys their personal and family lives. This doesn’t end here. Even in the remote working environment, like the current pandemic, people see their bosses online and they also stay online just to make them realise that they are working too.

The term was coined in 1971 by the psychologist Wayne Oates, who described workaholism as “the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work incessantly” (Oates, 1971). Since then, research on workaholism has been plagued by disagreements surrounding how to define and measure the construct. One study shows that all this workaholic saga takes place in the organisations due to variety of reasons, professional insecurities, internal competition and sometimes incompetence on the employees’ part which practically damages the work life balance of the professionals.

The leaders must find a striking difference in work motivation between engaged and non-engaged workaholics. Engaged workaholics work because they enjoyed their work or find their work meaningful. These are intrinsic motivators. Non-engaged workaholics are more likely to work for extrinsic motivators such as money and status. Intrinsic motivation is associated with more optimism, effort, and persistence. Extrinsic motivation often instigates anxiety and undermines persistence, making failure more likely.

However, giving yourself a break from that constant mental grind is crucial for feeling healthy and happy — within and outside work environment. With that in mind, here are five essential ways workaholics can use to strike a better work-life balance

1. Tell yourself loudly that this is your ‘personal’ time

You must have also noticed that even if you leave office at 7pm, in reality, you spend the rest of your evening checking emails, responding to phone calls, text or voice messages and getting a jump-start on your outlook calendar for the next day. Trust me, you aren’t alone. We’re all more connected to work than ever, which makes it tough to truly unplug. And, for self-proclaimed workaholics, it can feel almost impossible to step back and get that necessary time to recharge.

Once you leave the office or even if you are working from home, the first and foremost action is that you literally shut down your computer at 6 pm. Take time to rest to grow at work. It’s similar to getting stronger when we lift weights. Our muscles grow because after tearing the muscle fibers while lifting more weight, they fuse together when we rest to form new muscle. The issue is being able to rest.

2. Find Silence & Reflect

Working 5 or 6 days a week without a very little break is a clear proof of the fact that sooner than later, you will destroy your health and in turn your family life. In order to attain the right work-life balance, you have to learn to find a silent corner in your home. Pray, meditate, reflect, quiet your mind and try and connect the divine, taking breaks for silence and giving yourself the permission to realise that this is acceptable. You’ll be more productive for it, healthier for it and happier for it. Try to find time every day to stop what you’re doing and just sit quietly. The very act of quieting down for a few moments will help you to see more clearly what is important, what is not and will likely lead to new ideas about how to solve a problem you’ve been facing.

3. Learn to say ‘No’ with a Smile & Explanation

This is one thing that I learnt from one of my former bosses that we have to find the ability to say ‘NO’ with a smile and explanation and in a way that is well received is essential to ensuring a satisfying work-life balance:

  1. Defining exactly your professional goals with the person doing your performance review.
  2. Checking your motives before saying “no.”
  3. Thinking carefully about the words you choose when delivering the message.
  4. Accepting incremental changes as you re-define boundaries.

4. Self-Evaluate and Decide What You Value Most

Take time to self-evaluate and identify what compels you to work so much. Is it because of the poor delegation, time management or you are motivated by fear — e.g. fear of losing money, not measuring up, not being needed, facing other parts of your life, etc. — it’s time to start looking at what you value most and what is missing. If the motivators are joy and fulfillment, examine how creating balance and time for other activities can bring even more joy.

5. The 80/20 Rule

Workaholics can benefit by applying the Vilfredo Pareto 80/20 rule — how 20% of what they do can achieve 80% impact when they align their actions to the goals. This requires leadership and farsightedness. There are so many examples available in the corporate world where employees are encouraged to take frequent breaks while they are working for games, for gym, for table tennis and so on and so forth. Also, good organisations encourage their employees to avail their vacations instead of postponing and piling up their annual leave. As they begin to make better choices, they let go of overexerting themselves.

Last Word

Begin with acknowledging when your relationship to work is unhealthy. Does work feel like it’s out of control? Is it undermining your outside relationships? These are a few questions that you must ask yourself periodically.

Regain control over your work behavior. One way to do this is by setting clear rules for how many hours you will work each day. If you have trouble ‘switching off’, you might want to stop working a few hours before you retire for bed. Indulge in the activities that lighten up your mood better, things that give you happiness i.e. seeing friends, watching a movie, reading a book, or learning a new skill, can also help you psychologically detach from work.

Consider why you work excessively and compulsively. Remember, you can love what you do, without doing it all of the time.

Learn how sometimes smaller things in our lives make huge impact and you can take some learnings on a personal and professional level by following me on LinkedIn and on our official website. Also follow us on social media: Facebook, LinkedIn, Medium, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Muhammad Sajwani is the Founder, Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Evolve HR which aims at transforming, enriching and evolving Human Capital of Pakistan. At Evolve HR, him and his team thrives in challenging assumptions that hinder organisational aspirations, by creating innovative solutions that yield maximum impact, scalability & benefit to a wider base of stakeholders. As a Business Coach and Organisational Consultant, Sajwani knows how to combine business insights with people insights to transform organisations and put them on the path to growth.

C-Level HR, Transformation Leader, Board Advisor, Writer, Business Coach & Organisational Consultant