Workaholism in the Modern Workplace: How to Manage and Prevent Employee Burnout

As baby boomers age out of the workplace, they’re taking a few bad habits with them. For that generation, work was a central part of life. It was considered the norm to stay late at the office, take calls after hours, and work during holidays. 

Today’s workers have largely rejected the culture of workaholism, according to a new study from Washington University which shows that modern employees are cutting their hours. 

While the trend is most obvious among high-earning men, who reduced their hours by around 3% from 2019 to 2022, women are also cutting back as employees across the board reassess their work-life balance.

It may be a welcome move for workers, but it’s not so clear-cut for companies. Organizations will have to shift their workplace practices in response to the new mindset, offering more flexible schedules while still maintaining productivity.

Gen X, Millennials & Gen Z - What Generations are Workaholics?

Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z may vary wildly in their tastes, attitudes, and behaviors but they do have one thing in common when it comes to work - they want more time for themselves.

Recruitment group LiveCareer surveyed over 1,000 US workers for its 2023 Different Generations in the Workplace Study and found that the generations were united on this issue, with 92% of respondents saying work-life balance was important to them. 

It’s no surprise that all generations want more leeway at work - when asked which job benefits they valued most, Gen X and Millennials put flexible working options in first place. Gen Z listed flexible working options in second place behind health insurance. For all cohorts, remote work placed third behind health insurance and flexible work options.

How Your Company Can Prevent Workaholism

Businesses that aren’t willing to get comfortable with this shift will find it harder to attract and retain staff as workers seek out jobs that offer them reduced hours and focus more on work done rather than time served.  

Rather than treating the trend as a negative, companies should reframe it as a chance to create a more people-centric workplace and reexamine how they define productivity.

Studies show that workaholism is a productivity-killer. First coined in the 1970s, the term was used by psychologists to describe people suffering from an excessive compulsion to work. Also known as ‘toxic productivity,’ this addiction often leads to anxiety, depression, and ultimately burnout - hardly the ideal environment for a productive team.

Workaholism also harms creativity and innovation as not giving the brain time to rest limits our ability to think outside the box and problem-solve.

When it comes to combating workaholism, managers should lead by example. If they’re staying late, working overtime, and exhausting themselves to get on top of their workload, their team will feel an obligation to follow suit.

Instead, encourage staff to take breaks, focus on achievements rather than hours worked, and make sure you’re regularly checking in with employees so they can share their concerns if they feel under pressure. 

This approach should be supported with more formal safeguards such as flexible working hours, hybrid schedules and workplace wellness programs. 

There’s a lot companies can do to combat workaholism but sometimes it’s tough to keep an eye on remote teams. Employee productivity monitoring solution Prodoscore can help. By surfacing data around how employees interact with their company’s cloud-based applications, the easy-to-use software helps managers distinguish between those who are engaged in a healthy way and those who are pushing themselves to the limit.

Prodoscore collects data in real-time, helping team leaders spot the early signs of burnout and exhaustion so they can quickly respond. The dashboard also provides daily individual and team productivity scores so managers can track trends over time, noting when productivity is rising or dipping. Having this kind of invaluable data at their fingertips enables leaders to build a more responsive and engaged company culture. Contact our team today to schedule a demonstration or find out more.

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