The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time for food, fun and family gatherings. With so many people working longer hours and spending less time at home, it’s important to remember that we work to live, not the other way around.

According to a recent article in USA Today, a growing number of individuals report that they “live to work,” or they would rather work than anything else, and support groups for workaholics exist in nearly 20 states. Indeed, employees everywhere find it more and more difficult to separate work and life.

In some countries, workaholism is considered a “respectable addiction,” according to a recent article on WebMD, but it can be just as dangerous as any other addiction, and it affects millions of people. Bryan Robinson, one of the nation’s leading researchers on the subject and author of Chained to the Desk, describes workaholism as being an obsessive-compulsive disorder, and states that there is a difference between workaholics and hard workers. Hard workers typically achieve work life balance whereas workaholics generally think about work and nothing else.

Another name for workaholics is extreme workers. Characteristics of extreme workers include using work to escape from everyday life, converting your home into your office away from the office and being unable to relax or enjoy your free time. Typically, extreme workers range from nurses to construction workers to CEOs at major corporations. Signs that you might be submerging yourself too much into work include difficulty delegating, neglecting family obligations and increased tension with personal relationships and preoccupation with work.

Whether you classify yourself as a hard worker or a workaholic, long hours with little rest and no time for extracurricular activities decreases your job performance, work productivity and overall health. To help you get back on track to a healthy work life balance, check out these tips.

• Let go of the reins. Learn to delegate some of your work projects to other employees. When you do, trust the abilities of your co-workers to complete the job well. Trying to do everything creates stress. Often, projects don’t get the attention they deserve, resulting in a less than excellent outcome. To be more productive and successful in your workplace, you must allow yourself to say “no” to certain projects and let others become the lead or at least help out. To help you realize when you have reached your workload capacity, create a “to do list” and record the amount of time you think it will take to complete each project. Once you have reached your limit, delegate the remaining projects to fellow employees. Remember, you can’t do it all, but trying to can be an unhealthy habit. By releasing some of the added pressures of tackling everything that comes your way, you’re allowing yourself to become more available to important projects that could use your full attention, thus becoming more valuable to yourself and your company.

• Disconnect from technology. As access to technology increases, it has become increasingly difficult to stop working. People are constantly connected to their cell phones, e-mail and Internet through electronic devices. So, even if you want to get away, it is extremely hard. To help you separate your work life from your personal life, try disconnecting from the virtual world once you’re home from work. Put your BlackBerry or cell phone in a dresser drawer or a closet so you can’t retrieve it easily. If you feel you need to be in touch with work, make it a point to only check your e-mails or return phone calls during a certain time in the evening. By disconnecting from the technology world, you’re allowing yourself to turn off from the rigorous daily workload and refresh or reboot for the next day’s work.

• Schedule some personal time. Health and personal relationships are usually the first things neglected by workaholics. According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, 48 percent of extreme workers clock an average of 16.6 more hours a week than they did five years ago. About 35 percent give up some vacation time to work. When dealing with these obsessive behaviors, it’s important to put your well being and your relationships with your family and friends first. Just like you mark your calendar for important meetings or deadlines to get certain tasks completed, schedule yourself some quality time with friends, family members or just yourself. Join a gym, find a hobby or invest in quality time with your spouse and children. You’ll find that allowing yourself some down time and a little fun will increase your productivity at work.

With the holiday season just around the corner, this might be the perfect time to put some of these tips into action. Loving your job and working to the extreme are two completely different ends of the spectrum. Instead of working longer hours, work smarter and work more efficiently. You’ll not only find you’re more productive but that you’re happy and healthier as well.


Karen Dwyer

Karen Dwyer is the owner of Express Personnel, 9 W. Figueroa St., Santa Barbara 93101. She can be contacted at or at 805.965.6900.