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March 29 2022 - Thanks to COVID, work addiction has become a pandemic in its own right. The average employee in the United States (and in many countries around the world) works over 40 hours per week, with more than 11% of employees consistently working over 50. For many modern workers, work has become a number one priority - and while it may seem like a big win for human resources teams, it’s not a positive trend for anyone.
Workaholism is a serious mental condition that can lead to total burnout. It leads employees to work until their breaking point - when they’re no longer able to maintain their pace and maintain a balanced life. As employees invest all their energy into their careers, their efforts can steadily lead to emotional and nervous breakdowns, declining family and social lives, and worse productivity than ever.
To build successful teams, HR professionals must increasingly ensure their hard workers aren’t overexerting themselves. Here’s what you can do to recognize and curb workaholism in your workplace.
Visualize Employee Workloads
Spotting a case of workaholism is often as simple as analyzing what your employees are working on. While an employee may excel at meeting deadlines, it’s always possible that they’re doing so by working overtime or eliminating breaks - especially if they’re consistently completing far more tasks than their peers.
To simplify your analysis, you can use project management software like ClickUp or Asana. These tools offer built-in features that allow you to visualize the volume of tasks assigned to each team member at any point in time.
When you notice an employee who has an overabundance of tasks, start a conversation with them about their workload and how long they’re actually taking to complete them. Consider asking them to use a time tracker for a week if they’re unsure. If their tasks are taking well above 40 hours per week, work with them to build a healthier workload and delegate non-essential tasks.
Get to Know Employees as People
Many employees with work addiction use their career as a distraction from other aspects of their lives. When you get to know your team members and how they live their lives beyond the workplace, you can identify stressors that may be contributing to their growing workaholism. Show your employees unwavering support to foster a trusting relationship. Your employees may grow comfortable with telling you that they’re dealing with financial hardships, health issues, and other problems, through which you may be able to support them.
Getting to know your employees on a deeper level also helps you spot people who are most at risk for work addiction. Low self-esteem and perfectionism, for instance, are two qualities of an employee who is predisposed to overworking. As an HR professional, you have the chance to step in and help your team members practice healthier mindsets in the workplace. This can send their professional journey in the right direction before work addiction sets in.
Set Policies Around Overtime
It’s easy for an employee’s work addiction to grow. With the incentive of extra cash, they may start picking up some extra work here and there - and soon enough, overtime becomes a part of their routine.
Curbing workaholism is all about preventing it from getting started. Create a policy that states a maximum amount of overtime that an employee can work in a period of time - or disallow overtime altogether. While you may make rare overtime offers when your company is truly in a tight spot, it’s best for your team’s mental health to hire support, rather than opening up ongoing overtime opportunities.
Invest in Digital Transformation
A digital transformation can make your employees’ jobs easier. When you automate low-skill tasks or streamline communication with virtual tools, your team members can complete their day-to-day tasks faster than ever. Software and apps can render overtime unnecessary, as well as decrease the urge to skip lunch or dinner breaks.
It’s the duty of your HR department to invest in modern technology that can curb workaholism within their organizations. Once you’ve invested, it’s important to get employees on board with the changes that resulted from your digital transformation - perhaps by thoroughly training each person and sharing success stories with your team.
Build a Healthy, Long-Lasting Team
HR professionals can play a huge role in curbing workaholism - and many are taking action to help prevent it. Work addiction can occur in any organization, so knowing how to spot the signs is essential for reducing burnout across the country. Start by getting to know your employees deeply and visualizing their workloads to uncover the signs of workaholism. Honest communication is key for recognizing people who are predisposed to becoming workaholics.
Then, prevent your employees from glorifying overtime by putting a cap on the extra hours they’re allowed to work. Or, consider eliminating overtime opportunities altogether.
Jori Hamilton is a freelance writer residing in the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to business productivity, recruitment, HR, and marketing strategies. To learn more about Jori, you can follow her on Twitter and Contently.