Workaholics & Chocoholics: Healthy Addictions?

Are You a Chocoholic or Workaholic?

I’m Addicted to Chocolate

Truth be told I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth.  In fact, I don’t bring sweets into my home.  It’s my dark dirty little secret.  I can’t say no.  My chocoholism began as a child.  I would regularly sneak chocolate and ice cream into my bedroom.  I couldn’t get enough.  When I went away to college, my mom found my stash of empty frosting containers and chocolate candy wrappers beneath my bed. 

From Chocoholism to Workaholism

The thrill of work, the satisfaction, purpose, the importance it brings adds to this addiction.  Technology and the accessibility to feed this addiction, workaholism only adds to the desire.  It’s like leaving a bag of peanut butter chocolate cups on my kitchen table — gonzo.  Sooner or later the thrill, the need, the addiction, and the desire gets to be just too much. We give in.  As a new college grad in 2001, I remember daydreaming of the day I would have my own Blackberry to answer calls and send work emails all at a moment’s notice.  In my eyes, my boss was so lucky.  He was important; spending hours on conference calls and answering emails; on call every single minute of every day. I guess this makes me an overachiever.

Most workaholics can’t strike a balance between work and home.  We’re constantly taking calls over a family dinner or checking email during vacation.  Admit it.  I’m certain that most of us checked our email and responded to emails over the recent holiday.  In fact a Harris Interactive study says 72% of us checked our work email and 41% of us are frustrated and annoyed when we receive work email during holiday downtime.

New Study Says Work Addiction Can Be Healthy

A new study released by Rouen Business School in France says workaholism can actually be constructive.  Chocolate too.  Workaholism is defined by work involvement, feelings of being compelled to work and work enjoyment.  The study says that as long as the work is self-driven and provides self-worth and feelings of accomplishment working in excess is a-okay.  Baruch, the study’s author compares chocoholism to workaholism saying, “Eating some chocolate on a regular basis can have health benefits and provides energy and satisfaction. Same with work for a workaholic.”

I can almost hear managers who learn of this study applauding in unison while printing, forwarding and sharing the results via interoffice mail.  I’m tempted myself but not for the reasons you might imagine.  The study supports my chocolate habit as a good thing and not the overindulgent one I’ve been programmed to believe.

But hold on there . . . not so fast Mister or Miss Manager.  This study is contrary to almost all work life balance studies and psychology.  Barbara Killinger, a writer for Psychology Today and noted clinical psychologist describes workaholics and those that display a lack of work life balance suffer from a soul-destroying addiction becoming emotionally crippled.  Personally, that sounds a lot like my first marriage.

I’ve done some of my best work burning the midnight oil and putting in an 80 plus work week but always in moderation. I cannot sustain 80 hour work weeks forever.  Otherwise, you can bet I’m cashing in my FMLA and checking myself into a 12 step addiction program.  Time for a little vacay don’t you think?

Am I wrong?  Does work provide enough purpose?  Should the workforce strike a balance like Killinger recommends?

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

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Comments

  1. AvatarTraci Bell says

    For me, anything with “holism” on the end means the behavior is uncontrolled. The definition of workaholism as “defined by work involvement, feelings of being compelled to work and work enjoyment.” To continue the paragraph, ” The study says that as long as the work is self-driven and provides self-worth and feelings of accomplishment working in excess is a-okay. ” To me, this speaks to engagement more than workaholism.

    Balance is good, if one understands that life won’t balance perfectly all the time. For example, some weeks my job gets the majority of my time and some weeks my family might get more of my time. That’s inevitable, as deadlines, work emergencies, sick kids, science projects, etc. pop up. It’s when one side of the scale STAYS tipped in one direction and the other priority in your life is ignored that something you love can be unhealthy.

    • Jessica Miller-MerrellJessica Miller-Merrell says

      Traci,

      I agree. Everything in moderation and balance. And I agree with you that it sounds more like engagement. I just found it interesting that there was a study that supports work addiction. As a country, Americans already work harder and longer than anyone else. And according to this expert, it’s now totally okay. I’m not really buying it.

      Thank you for the comment.

      JMM

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