Labor Day Weekend is all about kicking back at home and trying to forget about the hectic workplace. That’s easy for some, difficult for others.
Relaxed folks saunter home at the end of Friday afternoon full of anticipation for a weekend filled with lawn clippings, minor sunburns and friendly conversation. They lock the office doors on the way out and purge the workweek from consciousness. They drift away from town with spotless minds.
The doors creak open again later Friday as the workaholics finally force themselves out of the office, their minds weighed down with the unfinished chores lurking on their desks. They wander toward home while mentally running through lists of things to do when they get back to the office.
It’s not easy being dedicated.
Lugging work all the way home is not healthy, according to numerous studies conducted over the last few decades.
Severe cases of work-related stress, according to WebMD, can lead to fatigue, teeth grinding, overeating, insomnia, chronic abdominal pain, even addiction to alcohol or other substances.
Science Daily defines a workaholic as a person addicted to work.
Two professors of management (Lieke ten Brummelhuis, associate professor of management at the Beedie School of Business, Simon Fraser University; and Nancy P. Rothbard, the David Pottruck Professor of Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania) last year released a study that explored the difference between the behavior of working long hours and the compulsion to work — workaholism.
An article about the study, published in Harvard Business Review, said the researchers found no health issues associated with the behavior of working long hours. But they found that even if they didn’t work long hours, people mentally preoccupied with work — workaholics — reported more sleep problems, more emotional exhaustion, more cynicism and more health problems in general.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics each month releases data on weekly work hours and overtime. The data doesn’t include farm payrolls. Employed Americans in July 2019 worked an average of 34.3 hours per week. Mining and logging workers averaged 46.2 hours a week. Utilities workers averaged 41.9 hours, construction workers 39.1 hours. Financial workers came in at 37.6 hours, retail workers at 30.7.
Those averages include employees who work a lot less than 30 hours a week, and plenty who work more than 46.
As the researchers discovered, work addiction and excessively long work hours don’t always go hand-in-hand. Conquering workaholism isn’t as simple as cutting back overtime.
Some addictions can be mastered by going cold turkey. It’s possible — though not easy — to stop some addictive behaviors by completely avoiding the substance or activity: video games, tobacco, alcohol, opioids, kleptomania, pyromania.
Other addictions involve things it is generally impossible to live without, so going cold turkey is not possible. Internet addiction can consume a person, but it’s getting more difficult every day to participate in society without an internet connection. Addiction to shopping can destroy a home budget, but everyone needs to buy supplies. Overeating is bad for your health — but starving yourself can lead to death.
Constantly worrying about work is stressful. Most of us need the money that a job can generate, so stopping work is not an option — at least for most of us.
Moderation is the only real solution to addictions like overeating or overworking. Achieving moderation can be a struggle.
Labor Day seems an appropriate holiday for workaholics to set aside some time for introspection. Working hard is good. Being productive is an honorable goal. But worrying about work while you’re off the clock doesn’t get the job done — and can be hazardous to your health.
I’m looking forward to this holiday weekend. I’m going to enjoy it. Especially if I can scare away the ghosts of workplace worry.