Are You a Workaholic or Just Overworked?

To be labeled a workaholic is to be esteemed for having two lucrative competencies–the ability to multi-task and a bias for action-critical skills for career success. On the other hand, there’s no glamour or fanfare associated with being overworked, and to admit to such a state is to sound a death knell to career aspirations. Yet, the current economic environment is producing more overworked employees than ever before as a result of layoffs and downsizings. Those who remain employed are required to accept more work on top of what they are already doing.

As a Christian, whether you are a workaholic or just plain overworked, you must be willing to follow God’s instructions. Scripture is adamant about working too long and wearing yourself out (Proverbs 23:4). This kind of behavior ultimately leads to severe stress and burnout. Are you unwittingly exposing yourself to poor mental and physical health because of workaholism or the pressures of being overworked (1 Timothy 6:9-10)? If you are not susceptible to either of these tendencies, you are blessed indeed; but if you do suffer from workaholism or are just plain overworked, here are several indicators to help you determine where you currently stand.

The Workaholic

According to Workaholics Anonymous (WA), if you work compulsively or consistently spend well over 40 hours per week on work-related activities whether at the office or at home, you could be a workaholic. This non-profit organization dedicated to helping the workaholic overcome these tendencies, has identified 20 indicators or symptoms of workaholism. Three of the more common ones are summarized as follows:

• A consuming passion for work to the exclusion of family and personal health, and a consistent need to be working all the time–as many as 16 hours a day, seven days a week and even while on vacations or during leisure activities.

• Constantly striving to get to the next job level or working hard to overcome a fear of being fired. Experiencing a feeling of emptiness when career objectives have been achieved and there’s no more work to do.

• Taking on extra work for fear that it will not be done correctly or timely, and trying to do everything alone without getting input or assistance from others. Getting impatient with people who have other priorities besides work, and holding it against them if the workaholic is in a leadership role.

While a workaholic can become very successful, the price of this success is very high–isolation, loss of family and friends and an ever-growing addiction to work. Workaholism is not an acceptable practice for the Christian for we are required to set boundaries for work and life. Although we are to work hard and with excellence, a balance must exist that allows for times of rest and refreshment (Exodus 23:12).

The Overworked

Being overworked is the opposite of workaholism. While the workaholic gets an adrenalin rush from constant work, the overworked employee experiences the drain of fatigue and sleeplessness. According to several studies, the number of overworked employees is growing, resulting in an increase in physical and emotional health problems, poor work quality and damaged work relationships with co-workers and bosses. Most people can recognize the symptoms of being overworked, but here are a few questions to help determine if you are overworked.

• Are you required or forced to work long hours and overtime without being able to take frequent breaks or a full meal rest period? Have you been asked to consistently work weekends or to cancel vacation time?

• Have you been given more work to do in addition to regular job duties and subtly threatened with a layoff or job loss if you don’t acquiesce to unrealistic work demands?

• Do you feel unduly pressured, tired, lethargic, helpless, stressed or depressed as a result of too much work? Are you waiting for the economy to turn around so you can get a more rewarding and less stressful job?

There’s no need to be overworked. If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit can guide you in handling excess pressure on the job. God has created work to be enjoyed–not to be harmful (Ecclesiastes 3:12-13). Let Him show you what to do at work and how to do it (Psalm 90:17).

Finding Peace and Rest

The wise Christian will not fall prey to either workaholism or being overworked; but will seek balance through God’s peace and rest. Peace results from putting Him in charge of work and life (Proverbs 16:3); and rest is found in Him alone (Psalm 62:1). Balancing work and life will mean exercising moderation (Ecclesiastes 5:12), practicing patience (Proverbs 28:20), giving generously (2 Corinthians 9:10-11), examining motives for working (1 Timothy 6:9-10), and seeking renewal through God’s rest (Hebrews 4:8-11).


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