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Workaholism-Does Working More Impact Productivity?

Authors:
  • Thninketh Labs, Chennai, India

Abstract and Figures

If you believe that longer work hours mean you'll get more done, you may be wrong. Doing business and being busy are two different things. Workaholics hinder the generation of new ideas and doing business differently. Essentially, workaholics never give their brains the rest required to create new ideas or focus on the task at hand, resulting in poor productivity. Research studies in UK and USA have found that these tendencies lead to elevated stress levels and result in over commitment and under achievement. Over working leads to workaholics resulting in lower productivity and profits for the organization. It has been found that workaholics not only affect today's Productivity but also future business success of the company. Today, more and more companies are looking for healthy and sustainable way of business operations and over working is definitely is not an option. Weekly work hours in several developed and developing countries are being reduced to about 40 hours for achieving sustainable productivity in operations. Key Words-Productivity and workaholic attitudes, Research work in UK and USA, Future business success and overwork, optimizing work hours per week.
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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF INNOVATIVE TRENDS IN ENGINEERING (IJITE) ISSN: 2395-2946
ISSUE: 62, VOLUME 40, NUMBER 02, APRIL 2018
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Workaholism – Does Working More Impact
Productivity?
Dr. K.R. Subramanian
Professor of Management & Senior Consultant Operations Management, Credait.com
Abstract - If you believe that longer work hours mean you’ll get
more done, you may be wrong. Doing business and being busy
are two different things. Workaholics hinder the generation of
new ideas and doing business differently. Essentially,
workaholics never give their brains the rest required to create
new ideas or focus on the task at hand, resulting in poor
productivity. Research studies in UK and USA have found that
these tendencies lead to elevated stress levels and result in over
commitment and under achievement. Over working leads to
workaholics resulting in lower productivity and profits for the
organization. It has been found that workaholics not only affect
today’s Productivity but also future business success of the
company. Today, more and more companies are looking for
healthy and sustainable way of business operations and over
working is definitely is not an option. Weekly work hours in
several developed and developing countries are being reduced to
about 40 hours for achieving sustainable productivity in
operations.
Key Words - Productivity and workaholic attitudes, Research
work in UK and USA, Future business success and overwork,
optimizing work hours per week.
I. INTRODUCTION
Being busy (or pretending to be) may not mean you’re
completing what needs to be done, or even that you’re
doing it well. Workaholics actually may be ineffective,
according to a Psychology Today article on the connection
between working hard and being a workaholic. This is
because they’re poor team members who have a hard time
delegating work, and end up overcommitted and therefore
more disorganized than others. Stress, sleep deprivation
and lack of exercise are hallmarks of workaholics, and they
actually hinder the generation of creative ideas, according
to a recent study of 1,385 people by online psychological
assessment firm Psych Tests. And a large UK study of
21,000 employees found that elevated stress levels and lack
of sleep lowered productivity in the workplace.
A British study found that those who work 55 hours a week
or more were 33 per cent more likely to suffer a
stroke compared with those who clocked 35 to 40 hours per
week. There was also a significant increase of 10 per cent
in heart attacks and other cardiac health issues. Stressful
environment, too much sitting and poor diets are being
looked at as contributing factors to the health risks of long
work weeks. Since the late 1980s, there has been strong
popular interest in the subject of working hours and in the
so-called workaholic. There has been less interest in the
academic literature on the subject of long working hours
and the motivations of those who work beyond the limits of
what is necessary. The new dimension points to another
group alongside workaholics: over workers. In one of the
research studies, One hundred seventy-four managers and
professionals with master of business administration
degrees rated themselves on work and reward dimensions
and provided data about work behaviors, rewards, attitudes,
and job progression as part of a longitudinal study. Over
workers and workaholics were found to differ on a number
of dimensions. Implications for these groups, including
their potential roles in the context of boundary less careers,
and for the organizations that employ them were found to
be not favorable.
The No. 1 goal of a workaholic is to be busy at all times
as they believe that the busier they are (or appear), the
more important they must be. Workaholics fill any space in
time with busy work because they feel insecure doing
nothing, the insecurity comes from not knowing their
value.
Figure 1: Workaholic Skipping a vacation or Lunch
may not be the best idea
What’s more, experts agree that grabbing lunch with co-
workers and clients can be a great way to network and
further your career. A high performer works hard in
"healthy sustainable ways and feels happy and inspired,"
meanwhile, a workaholic "works hard in unhealthy
unsustainable ways and feels unhappy and burned out."
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II. OBJECTIVES AND METHODOLOGY
Productivity has always been a concern of all
manufacturing companies. So, many companies resorted to
getting an extra mile from its workers for the same salary
and wages. But soon this practice led to some workers
being on the job for a longer time than required to
complete the work resulting in an actual drop of
Productivity. More than the drop of productivity, which
could be improved, permanent arm was done to the
working habits of employees. Being present on the job for
more and more duration than it actually called for affect the
long term habit and consequently the output and
productivity measures in place for measurement. The
present research paper would analyze the pros and cons of
such improper conduct of employees. Following specific
Objectives have been identified for the purpose of the
current research study:
1. A brief review of current business environment
regarding productivity and its measurement.
2. Some of the concerns and causes affecting
productivity.
3. Circumstances leading to workaholic attitudes.
4. Analysis of consequences of such attitudes.
5. Suggestions and recommendation for overcoming
such attitudes.
A Questionnaire survey was initially considered for
eliciting response from different industrial companies. This
was found to be not feasible and cumbersome to collect,
collate and infer conclusions from data. On a study of
available literature, and the electronic web pages, it was
found that adequate data was available. The task was then
to identify the sources, collect, collate and classify the
information and data sources. This has been done and the
result was found to be satisfactory to arrive at the
conclusions and recommendations.
III. REVIEW OF LITERATURE
Contrary to popular belief, workaholic attitudes are wide
spread and consequently the author felt the need for
selecting the topic for a detailed research study. The term
work holism was coined in 1971 by minister and
psychologist Wayne Oates, who described workaholics as
“the compulsion or the uncontrollable need to work
incessantly” (Oates, 1971). Since then, research on work
holism has been plagued by disagreements surrounding
how to define and measure the construct. For example,
workaholism has been defined as an addiction to work (Ng,
Sorensen & Feldman, 2007; Porter, 2006; Robinson, 2000),
a pathology (Fassel, 1990), a behavior pattern that persists
across multiple organizational settings (Scott, Moore &
Miceli, 1997) and a syndrome comprised of high drive,
high work involvement and low work enjoyment (Aziz &
Zickar, 2006). In an effort to reconcile these varied
perspectives, key commonalities across these definitions
and used these to form a comprehensive definition that
includes the following components (Clark, Michel,
Zhdanova, Pui & Baltes, in press):
o Feeling compelled to work because of
internal pressures.
o Having persistent thoughts about work
when not working.
o Working beyond what is reasonably
expected of the worker (as established by
the requirements of the job or basic
economic needs)
Figure 2: Compulsive need to catch up in spite of being
on a holiday
Taking work to home and create a situation of non-
satisfactory conditions for wife and children is another
popular form of workaholic behavior. For such people the
work never ends and it stretches beyond imagination. An
all-consuming devotion to work is linked to a variety of
undesirable outcomes. Workaholism is linked to work-
family conflict, or having competing, and often conflicting
demands in one’s professional and private spheres. In turn,
work-family conflict can decrease satisfaction with one’s
family, or even one’s life as a whole. After all, if your
significant other or children are complaining that you’re
not present enough at home, and you’re simultaneously
feeling that you’re not living up to the demands of your
job; it can be a pretty stressful and conflicted existence.
Consequently, it’s not surprising that workaholism is also
linked to burnout.
The cumulative body of research supports the idea that
workaholism has negative consequences. As shown in
Figure 3, meta-analytic findings overwhelmingly show that
workaholism is associated with negative outcomes for the
individual, for the workaholic’s family, and even for the
organization (Clark et al., in press). Some of the strongest
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negative relationships were found between workaholism
and job stress, work-life conflict and burnout. One
particularly noteworthy finding from our meta-analysis was
that workaholism was not significantly related to
performance, which indicates that even though workaholics
may spend more time thinking about and physically
engaging in work than the average worker, this may not be
of any benefit to their employer. In contrast, meta-analytic
studies investigating the outcomes of work engagement
have found a positive association between work
engagement and many positive outcomes, including
improved organizational performance (Christian, Garza, &
Slaughter, 2011); a finding that further emphasizes the
differences between workaholism and work engagement.
Figure 3: Summary of significant outcomes of
workaholism. A positive sign (+)
indicates a significant positive relationship with
workaholism, a negative sign (-)
indicates a significant negative relationship, and ns
indicates a non significant
relationship. Adapted from Clark, Michel, Zhdanova,
Pui & Baltes (in press).
In science and practice, workaholism and work
engagement are often confused. Undoubtedly, the
behaviors of workaholics and engaged workers appear
similar because in both cases these individuals often work
harder and longer than other individuals. However,
research suggests there are several key differences between
workaholism and work engagement. One key difference
between workaholism and work engagement is the
motivations underlying these behaviors. Whereas engaged
workers are driven to work because they find it
intrinsically pleasurable, workaholics are driven to work
because they feel an inner compulsion to work feelings
that they “should” be working (Graves, Ruderman, Ohlott
& Weber, 2012). Although the research on this topic is still
in its infancy, several studies have found support for the
idea that workaholism and work engagement are related to
different motivational underpinnings (Clark, Hunter,
Beiler-May & Carlson, 2015; van Beek, Hu, Schaufeli,
Taris, & Schreurs, 2012; van Beek, Taris, Schaufeli, &
Brenninkmeijer, 2014).
Second, workaholics and engaged workers appear to
experience very different emotions. For example, in a two-
wave study of working adults, we found that workaholism
was related to the experience of negative discrete emotions
(i.e., guilt, anxiety, anger and disappointment) at work and
home, whereas work engagement was related to the
experience of positive discrete emotions (i.e., joviality,
attentiveness and self-assurance) at work and home (Clark,
Michel, Stevens Howell, & Scruggs, 2013). Additionally, it
was found that workaholics reported feeling less joviality
and self-assurance at work. These findings are in line with
a taxonomy of work-related well-being presented by
Schaufeli (2013), who posited that engaged workers
experience pleasant activated emotions (e.g., excited,
happy, enthusiastic) while workaholics experience
unpleasant activated emotions (e.g., irritated, hostile,
tense).
The cumulative body of research suggests that
workaholism is primarily linked with negative outcomes,
and work engagement is primarily linked with positive
outcomes. By definition workaholism makes it difficult to
psychologically detach from work, and can interfere with
the individual’s ability to recharge and recover from the
job. Apart from creating psychological challenges,
workaholism has also been shown to have physical
ramifications. For example, one study suggested that
workaholics have increased susceptibility to sleep
problems and heightened cardiovascular risk. Another
study of workers in the United States, Australia, and
Europe found that individuals who worked 55 or more
hours per week were more likely to develop heart disease
or suffer from a stroke than those who worked 35-40 hours
per week.
To help prevent your workaholic tendencies from
sabotaging your productivity, the following suggestions
can be tried out:
Set work hours and stick to them.
Schedule and commit to regular fresh air and
exercise (to help you sleep better).
Prioritize your work activities to start with those
that will yield the most productive results.
Say no to commitments requiring longer work
hours.
Don’t answer emails or phone calls outside of
your set work hours or when you’re on vacation.
Don’t forget to schedule family, friend and
community social time.
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Workaholics who are also entrepreneurs are especially at
risk for sleep problems, elevated stress levels, and poor
personal and work relationships due to impatience with
others. After all, you don’t have a boss to help curb your
workaholic tendencies. It’s up to you to change your
behavior. Remember, workaholic tendencies may not only
hamper today’s productivity, it may even work against
your future business success.
Here are three more subtle differences between
workaholics and high performers:
1. High performers know their value. Workaholics allow
others to determine their value.
"A high performer knows their self-worth and can thus
work with a sense a freedom". They do periodic self-
evaluations of their performance so that they can constantly
improve. And, "they create their own feedback loops rather
than waiting on feedback from others." A workaholic, on
the other hand, relies on external validation from those
around them: bosses, colleagues, and clients. They wait for
external evaluations, such as mid-year or annual reviews,
to understand how well they are doing, which causes them
to work with a constant sense of fear.
2. High performers give 100% at the right time.
Workaholics give 110% all of the time.
A high performer knows when to "turn it up." They know
when they're expected or required to give everything they
have and they save their energy for those occasions."
They don't buy into the illusion of 110%," he says. "They
know that 110% is unsustainable. Instead they focus on
increasing their capacity so that their 100% is better than
the competition's 110%." A workaholic attempts to go all
out, all the time. "They have difficulty prioritizing what's
important; therefore, everything is important in their
mind."
3. High performers take initiative. Workaholics are
reactive.
A high performer plans out their day in advance to make
sure they will get their most meaningful work done. Only
after they have completed these takes do they allow
themselves to shift focus to unplanned events. By contrast,
a workaholic's day is driven entirely by outside distractions
like reading emails and handling crises.
4. High performers do business. Workaholics are busy.
A high performer's primary goal is to do business. The only
thing that matters to them is results. If they can't see a way
to create value in the moment, they facilitate or strategize
instead. They know that like the economy, business comes
in waves, therefore they get ready during the dips so they
can capitalize during the upswings.
Figure: 4 Schematic overview of the workaholism field, including particular measurements, possible antecedents
and consequences (correlates) of workaholism, and potential treatment approaches
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A schematic view of workaholism in an organization and
how interventions can help overcome problems is given
below in Figure 4.The antecedents will measure the cases
or factors leading to such behavior in organizations.
Various measurement tools are also depicted. How
workaholism can be detected or correlated to attitudes
towards work is also given. Finally on the RHS suggestions
as to how organizations can deal with such problems are
given. This is a useful framework for organization
planners.
Organizational intervention strategies are very important to
design the above. In the strategic planning model it is
clearly mentioned as to how organizations will interface
with employees and correct the organizational functions
and redirect them to organizational goals. Work attitudes
are important for an organization and good organizations
keep a continuous vigil on this.
IV. FINDINGS AND CONCLUSION
All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy. It also hurts
Jack’s health and has a negative impact on his relationships
and work life. Workaholic attitude involves a reluctance to
disengage from work that is evidenced by a tendency to
work or think about work anytime and anywhere.
Conceptual links made with the transactional model of
stress suggest that workaholics focus on work at the
expense of personal relationships. A healthy attitude
towards work and doing it with good spirits is important
for achieving productivity and operational efficiency.
Current working environment is demanding, but an analyst
will tell you that the environment has always been
challenging. Productivity has always been a concern of
particularly manufacturing firms where more people are
employed and the need to utilize them is challenging.
Somewhere along the line the misconception has given
way, that the more engaged people are they contribute to
improve production and productivity. Some workmen and
supervisors were smitten by this fancy to be occupied
always in work related activities without considering the
contribution of those activities to improved production or
productivity. Such workaholic behavior is causing concern.
We have seen in the literature review that such behaviors
not only affect productivity but also the long term
motivation and health of employees. With the competitive
pressures in all facets of manufacturing, marketing and
planning, the companies are waking up to this reality that
working too much is not good for the employees as well as
for the employer, considering the long term implications.
Companies, through training and induction programs have
to educate the employees regarding proper attitudes
towards work and leisure activities.
As consequences, the employee’s professional and private
lives and health are affected. The various forms of
afflictions have been described in the review of literature.
The purpose of taking employment is to take care of the
families and have a good life for self and members of the
family. If this basic premise is threatened by workaholic
attitudes, the concerned employee and the company should
jointly take immediate steps to get to the root of the
problem and create appropriate organizational intervention
strategies and actions. Any delay or passive attitude in this
regard has grave consequences for the employee and the
organization.
Various suggestions for immediate identification of
workaholism and taking up immediate actions have been
suggested. Corporate intervention can start with defining
the ideal working hours and create policies to implement.
Working more should be replaced by working to schedule
and completing assignments on time. Any tendency for
departure from the norms should be nipped in the bud. The
sooner it is realized that workaholism is a disease, the
better for the organization.
Figure 5: can we stop this?!
New phenomena specific to the times we live in such as
globalization, the socio-economic crisis can generate
pressures upon employees and organization management.
Work ethics and organizational culture encourages work
and implicitly work addiction developing into an
addiction, the latest buzz word in the world of addiction.
The support of the family and friends, keeping equilibrium
between family and professional life, and prioritization can
reduce the degree of work addiction. A serious analysis of
an unhealthy organization, which encourages work
addiction, can reveal communication issues, unsolved or
unknown conflicts, unrealistic tasks or deadlines, a poor
management, a poor control of the leadership, high-level
stress. Modern organizations are confronted with new
challenges which organizational management must
properly manage. And sometimes the solutions are not so
hard to find unless we find the equilibrium in all we do.
V. RECOMMENDATIONS
One exciting future research direction is understanding
workaholism in a dynamic sense. In a recent study aimed at
understanding momentary workaholism using experience
sampling methodology, it was found 46 percent of the
variance in workaholism was attributable to within-person
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variance (Clark et al., 2015). Additionally, workaholics
reported greater negative emotions on days they also
reported greater workaholism (Clark et al., 2015). Yet, we
still do not know how these relationships play out in terms
of discrete work or family events. For example, do
workaholics experience fleeting moments of joy when they
are working on a work task? Future research could also
examine the contextual factors (e.g., organizational
expectations, leader behavior) that may foster momentary
workaholic tendencies.
Although there have been some promising advances
recently in the study of workaholism, there is still much we
do not yet know. Future research is needed to understand
the role of organizational factors, such as a climate for
overwork, in fostering and reinforcing employee
workaholic behaviors. Longitudinal research on the
outcomes of workaholism is sorely needed. Given the
changing nature of the workplace, it is even more
important than ever before to understand the antecedents
and consequences of workaholism. Technology advances
(e.g., smart phones, company-supplied laptops) have
allowed employees potentially unlimited access to their
work, and changes in where work occurs (e.g.,
telecommuting) may further blur the lines between work
and home. Given that technology and work may be
mutually reinforcing addiction patterns (Porter &
Kakabadse, 2006), future research should consider the
ramifications of the changing nature of work as well as
changing technology (e.g., increasing popularity of smart
phones) on workaholics.
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... The main difference between both is related to motivation, the trigger of behaviors. Briefly, workaholics feel an internal compulsion to work, whereas engaged workers see the act of working as intrinsically pleasurable (Subramanian 2018). ...
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