If you love your work, does that make you a workaholic?

6 August 2015 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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We all know the terms – one who loves alcohol is an alcoholic, one who loves chocolates is a chocoholic and one who loves shopping is a shopaholic. But what about the workaholics? Does the term sit well with those who love work or those who find an escape in work? Is it applicable to those who are not defined by anything else but their work? Is a workaholic the one whose only escape route in life is work?

In recent times, with so much focus on career advancement and the many tiers of empowerment attached to it, from financial rewards to fulfilment of personal ambition, careers have come to mean more work and more time spent at work. For many, this has become a powerful feature, naturally enough, yet one that loads capacity. Today’s careers demand a lot of one – one’s time, efforts, energy and capability and can become such a key part of one’s life that it can turn one into a workaholic without much effort.

Yet, there are others to whom their very definition springs from the work they do. Often enough, we unknowingly identify ourselves by the careers we have chosen – one is a lawyer, an accountant or a doctor. There are still those among us who despite their technical training have switched careers. There are doctors engaged in business and engineers who have become entrepreneurs. So the notion that your chosen path of work defines you, does not always apply. Yet, for those it does, they take their inspiration and their cues from the career. 

I remember watching a Sinhala TV series many moons ago in which an old gentleman finally retired from work – he thought he was looking forward to the day when he can finally sleep an hour late, read the papers and spend the day leisurely. He was wrong. Each morning, he woke up eagerly looking forward to the work day and realized sadly he was no longer going to work. He would stand at the gate and watch others rush off to work with sadness. He missed the small talk with the colleagues at tea in the office. He missed being responsible and he missed above all, the routine that has come to define him for the last 30 years.


Signs of a workaholic 
That man’s story can easily be anyone’s. While work described him best, it also gave him fulfilment in the tasks he did and in the fellowship he sought with colleagues. The relationships we form are important and last long in life and most of these can stem from work places too. We all have friends from the office that we have been in touch with for years. And their fellowship was significant to us while we worked but sincerity of it has ensured it becoming a lasting relationship.

It isn’t a bad thing to love what you do – as the saying goes, find a job you love doing and you will not have to work a single day. That maybe just a cliché but finding a job involving work you like doing can certainly be fulfilling. Yet, as fulfilling as it maybe, if it keeps you engaged all day long and flows into your private time with friends and family, then it is turning you into a workaholic.

It can be a tough task to determine the borders. With technology empowering us, it is naturally enough for the work to continue throughout the day in a seamless flow. You can check e mails on your smartphone and respond to work queries which makes it easy, unintentionally, to work even when you are out at dinner with the family. 

For those who work from home, the entrepreneur moms, it may be a necessity to incorporate this seamless flow of work into their lives. You can work while cooking or attending to chores. You can introduce a degree of flexibility into your work schedules in this manner – yet we need to be mindful of the borders so that one does not so easily and naturally flow into the other all the time that we can, unknowingly, alienate family. 

Signs of being a workaholic are not hard to find. If you find yourself constantly checking your phone and responding to e mails, if your official phone conversations are long and interrupt personal conversation spaces, if your work frequently keeps you at your desk for well over eight hours and if work is what you do until you go to bed and from the time you wake up, then you need to take a step back.

It can be safely assumed that it is ok to love your work – if you don’t, then it can be very frustrating. Not only work, but the very rituals involved with it that gives us a certain degree of confidence and satisfaction. It empowers us and makes us feel good about what we do. But we need to also keep in mind where to stop and where to let go. Life is all about the flow and the ebb – as long as we can fit those in well, we need not be worried about becoming a workaholic.
 
(Nayomini Weerasooriya, a senior journalist, writer and a PR professional, can be contacted at nayominiweerasooriya@gmail.com)

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