Employers must help their workforce in achieving a more positive, balanced and healthy relationship with their work, as workaholic employees risk burnout, according to the CEO of recruiting experts, Hays.

The World Health Organization recently classified burnout as a legitimate medical diagnosis. According to the organisation’s handbook, symptoms can include feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativity or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficiency.

Hays CEO, Alistair Cox warned employers to look out for the following signs that an employee is addicted to their work: being the first person to arrive in the office and the last to leave on a regular basis, continually working on weekends, never using full holiday entitlement, and compulsively checking work emails out of hours. Alistair advised that over time this behaviour can become destructive and even lead to burnout.

Alistair states that the potential causes of work addiction can include technology and a fear of being replaced, saying, “The fear of being replaced, either by a robot or by a human who we perceive to be more talented and hardworking than us, is all too real. To counteract this feeling of insecurity, we feel we need to work longer than anyone else, be more committed than anyone else and achieve more than anyone else.”

Alistair said other causes could be a faster pace of life or professionals identifying being busy as something to be proud of, he commented; “In today’s world of work, being busy is almost perceived as a badge of honour, a state of being that somehow proves our worth to the world. After all, if you’re not busy, surely, you’re not in demand? This mindset leads us to put unrealistic demands on ourselves and our time.”

Alistair states that he thinks employers have a key role to play in stopping the vicious cycle before it becomes an epidemic and shared six tips to help business leaders curb the workaholic trend in their workplace:

Think about the impact of your actions
Alistair said, “Sometimes it’s inevitable, you will have to work late or over the weekend. But as a leader, you shouldn’t set that expectation in your team through your actions. For instance, if you’re working late, try scheduling your emails to be sent during working hours if you can. This will limit the risk of employees feeling obligated to answer or work during their personal time.”

Reward quality of work, not quantity of hours worked
Alistair advised, “Review how you measure success and assess candidates for promotion – are your long-standing processes rewarding the right things? If not, it’s time for a rethink. Similarly, try to openly and publicly praise the productive and engaged non-workaholics on your team.”

Stop being so judgemental
Alistair commented, “Let your team set their own boundaries, and don’t judge them for doing so. For example, if a member of your team can’t stay late to finish a project due to personal commitments, try to resist the temptation to somehow silently put a black mark against their name in your mind. Change your perspective and understand that it’s not about the quantity of hours worked, it’s about the quality of the work produced.”

Encourage your team to take time out
Alistair said, “Encourage your team members to use their full quota of leave – talk to them about how they’re going to spend it, and importantly, reiterate that you don’t want to be receiving any emails from them while they’re off. Encourage regular breaks and discourage eating lunch in front of their computers.”

Don’t let the workaholic’s habits permeate to the rest of the team
Alistair opined, “As organisational psychologist Woody Woodward says, ‘It’s important not to punish your more productive and balanced team members with added timelines and burdens purely created by your wayward workaholic.’ Keep your team culture in check and educate yourself on the signs of workaholism so you can look out for your other team members.”

Be a role model
Alistair stated, “I think it’s important that we role model healthy behaviour and attitudes from the top. So, start today by consciously setting boundaries and communicating these with your team (and importantly, sticking to them). Also, make a concerted effort to establish more of a balance in your life by prioritising your physical and mental health.”

Alistair concluded by saying, “There’s a very fine line between working hard and working obsessively hard to the detriment of your productivity and success at work, or more importantly, to the detriment of your health and personal relationships. As leaders, it is important that we are aware of the risks both from a personal perspective and for our team members and wider businesses.”

This content originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer blog.


About Hays

Hays plc (the "Group") is a leading global professional recruiting group. The Group is the expert at recruiting qualified, professional and skilled people worldwide, being the market leader in the UK and Asia Pacific and one of the market leaders in Continental Europe and Latin America. The Group operates across the private and public sectors, dealing in permanent positions, contract roles and temporary assignments. As at 31 December 2018 the Group employed 11,700 staff operating from 262 offices in 33 markets across 20 specialisms. For the year ended 30 June 2018:

– the Group reported net fees of £1.072 billion and operating profit (pre-exceptional items) of £243.4 million;

– the Group placed around 77,000 candidates into permanent jobs and around 244,000 people into temporary assignments;

– 19% of Group net fees were generated in Australia & New Zealand, 26% in Germany, 24% in United Kingdom & Ireland and 31% in Rest of World (RoW);

– the temporary placement business represented 58% of net fees and the permanent placement business represented 42% of net fees;

– Hays operates in the following countries: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Chile, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, the UK and the USA