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micro skills

Find ways to reorder your priorities and cut back working hours gradually.Arpad Nagy-Bagoly/Getty Images/iStockphoto

This is part of a series looking at micro skills – changes that employees can make to improve their health and life at work and at home, and employers can make to improve the workplace. The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell have created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and well-being of their employees first. Read about the 2017 winners of the award at Register your company for 2018 now at

Would you describe yourself as a workaholic?

Today in Canada, approximately 31 per cent of workers identify themselves as workaholics. They're preoccupied with work, which takes priority over everything else in life, such as family, friends and physical health.

When it becomes a problem, like any other addictive disorder, work can have a negative impact on an individual's overall quality of life. This Workaholism Quick Survey screens for workaholism as any other addiction such as drugs, alcohol or gambling. One challenge for determining a work addiction is that hard work is both encouraged and rewarded in society. However, there's a line that, once crossed, the need to work all the time becomes a compulsion.

In 2014, The Globe and Howatt HR launched the Your Life at Work Survey that's still online today and help individuals measure the quality of their work life. To launch this study, we ran articles on topics such as Are you addicted to work?, which illustrates how this can impact a person's mental health. We included a short risk survey on the topic.

For the workaholic survey there were 677 participants. Here are some of the findings from this survey:

· Thirty-eight per cent were at moderate risk. They were cautioned that having a difficult time taking vacations and relaxing, or worrying about failing at work can increase their drive to work longer. Another risk for a person who is stressed, working long hours, and not getting enough rest is burnout.

· Twenty-three per cent fell in the serious risk category, suggesting that if they're not a workaholic, they're displaying behaviours that put them at risk. They were asked to self-evaluate whether they're experiencing any consequences of workaholism such as relationship issues or physical health issues resulting from lack of activity or attention to diet, rest and nutrition.

· Thirty-two per cent fell in the sub-clinical category, suggesting there may not be a concern. However, these persons were asked to monitor their work hours and note whether they can relax when not at work.

· Eight per cent fell in the low-risk category. These persons were encouraged to monitor their work and ability to relax when not at work.

This survey is not meant to be a diagnostic tool; only a self-awareness tool to help people step back and evaluate their risk for workaholism.


If you're interested in knowing your degree of risk for work addiction, complete the Workaholism Quick Survey.


Like any mental health challenge, you're accountable for your own health. If you're concerned about the amount of time you spend at work, you may want to meet with a professional who is an expert on work addictions to assess your risk, and if required, help you develop an action plan to curb your risk. Effective treatment plans can get to the root of what's driving your compulsion to work all the time. This is good news, because a work addiction is different than alcohol or drugs. Most of us can't abstain totally from work, as we need money to pay our bills and live.


Community resources such as Workaholics Anonymous are available to support a person with a work addiction. However, prevention of risk by early identification and action is possible when we're aware and take accountability for our actions. If you're concerned about your risk, set some structure for yourself:

· Define work periods – Set work periods such as 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and restrict all your core work to these times. Weekends and evenings are your time for family, friends, physical health and living.

· Daily journal – Monitor yourself daily, and be honest whether when in your free time you can separate from work and focus on personal issues. If work is on your mind all the time, you're not getting a chance to decompress. Journaling can be a helpful way to write away stress and to hold yourself accountable so that you can determine if work is becoming a pre-occupation, and the only time you feel you can relax is when you're thinking of or doing work.

Bill Howatt is the chief research and development officer of work force productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto and creator of an online Pathway to Coping course offered through the University of New Brunswick.

This series supports The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell's Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

This award recognizes employers who have the healthiest, most engaged and most productive employees. It promotes a two-way accountability model where an employer can support employees to have a positive workplace experience.

You can find all the stories in this series at this