As the child of two workaholics, I’ve always known that the apple wouldn’t fall too far from the tree. My workaholism started early – throughout my school years I would regularly study until the early hours of the morning, even at age 13 – and not much has changed since.
Depending on who you ask, workaholism is an admirable trait, a symptom of a work-obsessed society or a full-blown psychological addiction. It has been both linked with ADHD, OCD, anxiety and depression, and prized by employers looking for dedicated employees willing to go the extra mile (no matter the personal cost).
Is it a badge of honour, or a crippling affliction? For some it can be both. While work has been shown to be an important part of human life, giving individuals with a sense of purpose and belonging, and providing the good old positive reinforcement of a pay cheque, sometimes the drive to work begins to take over. Somewhat worryingly, however, unlike other addictions, workaholism is generally viewed positively, with workaholics described as hardworking and industrious.
For millennials, the slope to workaholism has become even easier to slide down with the advent of smartphones, tablets and 24-hour connectivity. Constant high-speed internet means we can keep working wherever we are, for as long as we want. It’s great for continually churning out work, but what is it doing to our sense of wellbeing?
As a self-confessed workaholic, I have some concerns. I used to view the label as a positive part of my identity. Now I’m not so sure. Sure, everybody has to earn a dime, but for those of us lucky enough to earn a living wage or salary, is it time to reappraise? If we do nothing but work, what exactly are we working for?