About 50% of Americans say they're workaholics; here's how to get your work-life balance back

Posted at 5:22 AM, Sep 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-24 06:30:16-04

(WXYZ) — We’re all under a lot of pressure these days with family life, work responsibilities and the pandemic.

Trying to balance it all can be tough, and too many of us get the balance wrong.

Almost half of Americans call themself workaholics. That has consequences – emotionally and physically – but there is a way to break the cycle.

In a 2019 survey conducted for the Vision Council, half of workers admit to working through lunch.

One in five say they check their emails in the middle of the night. Almost six in 10 say they check their emails first thing in the morning while still in bed.

In all, 53% say they’re stressed out about work.

Here are some steps to get the balance right and fight the negative fallout from workaholism.

Debora Collins, a psychotherapist based in Ann Arbor, says many true workaholics are driven by anxiety -- fear of a negative set of consequences and worries about measuring up.

They try to meet that need by working. Workaholics suffer persistent thoughts about work on personal time and are emotionally absent from family and friends.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), 29% of American workers put in 45 to 59 hours a week, and 16% say they work 60-plus hours a week.

The OECD says productivity falls when workers clock more than 48 hours a week.

"We spend more time in our heads, in our anxious thinking about getting things done than actually getting the work that's on our docket completed," Collins said.

According to the Harvard Business Review, workaholics report more health problems. They include sleep issues, cynicism, emotional exhaustion, and more depressive feelings. Collins says it's often harder for the person who slips into work addiction to recognize the problem.

"Because they can't step back enough to see how it's impacting their emotional wellbeing and the people in their lives," she said.

It is easier for a family member or friend to see the negative consequences and call it out. But not in an accusatory way or you risk driving them deeper into work. Their place of safety until they break the cycle.

"Talk about how it's impacting you, what you miss about your partner, your parents, your friends," Collins said.

The Detroiters we caught up with don’t suffer from a work addiction. They’re just trying to stay on top of it all. Even so, they know there is a cost to the whole family.

The first step to breaking the cycle is to admit there's a problem.

Collins says if we're trying to restructure our lives, trying engaging in life-affirming and grounding activities like:

  • Spending time in nature
  • Participating in sports
  • Volunteering
  • Creating tactile things (art, furniture making, etc.)
  • Playing an instrument.

Also, you should limit technology use in the off hours, especially before bed to allow for a long wind-down before bed and a less anxiety-producing start to the day.