In the first few years, entrepreneurs must put in long hours to establish their businesses. However, there is a difference between working hard and being a workaholic. Whereas the first one is essential for getting your business off the ground, the latter can destroy your productivity, relationships and health. Learn what this disorder is, and how to avoid and treat it.

You know you're a workaholic if...

I spent the past two years working in Japan, where the word karoshi—death from overwork—was coined. I still remember seeing a businessman fall flat on his face after taking a standing nap on the train. While having a couple of bruises was this man’s punishment for longer than normal hours, at its worst, workaholism can lead to a stress-induced heart attack or stroke.

Workaholism is a type of obsessive-compulsive disorder where people become addicted to work. While working hard is important for running a successful business, workaholism leads to people logging unreasonably long hours which can lead to negative health affects, strained relationships, and low-quality work. This disorder is characterized by broken relationships, as well as negative physical and behavioral effects.

Workaholics regularly miss social engagements with friends and family which leads to conflicts with their spouses and children. They also may suffer from physical disorders like headaches, fatigue, indigestion, or chest pains. Common behavioral signs are temper outbursts, restlessness, difficulty relaxing, irritability, or impatience.

Are you really getting that much done?

Many workaholics think that they are better employees because of their long hours spent at the office, which is a complete myth. Workaholics often feel the need to busy all of the time, so they do more work than is actually necessary to complete the job. They go over each sentence line by line or take painstakingly long to finish a simple assignment due to perfectionist tendencies.

According to an article from, some recovered workaholics are able to accomplish in 50 hours what they previously couldn't do in 80. The reason for this is that workaholics are often unable to take advantage of the resources available to them by delegating work to subordinates or asking for help from peers.

Studies show that overworking is detrimental to productivity, creativity, and cooperation. Workaholism reduces productivity because it leaves the entrepreneur no time to recharge his/her body and mind. It stifles creativity because workaholics cannot separate themselves from their work—it follows them home and enters their thoughts and conversations even when they should be relaxing. Just as a conversation with a narcissist revolves solely around that person, a workaholic’s conversation revolves solely around work.

By cutting off all people and topics unrelated to work, the workaholic loses sources of creativity which are valuable for moving the business forward. Lastly, workaholism is an enemy to cooperation with subordinates, peers, and other employees. The workaholic has trouble letting go of responsibility, so it is difficult for him/her to build relationships with co-workers or employees. They are unable to take advantage of the correction and review that others have to offer and thus are not producing the highest quality work possible.

Steps to recovery

The most important thing to remember in your efforts to avoid workaholism is balance. Make sure that no matter how much work needs to be done for your business, you are still taking care of your body, maintaining healthy relationships, and establishing boundaries. Your body is not a slave to your company, no matter how important you view its success. Taking care of your body means giving it adequate rest, food, and exercise.

Your friends and family are a valuable resource that can provide not only financial benefits but also mental and emotional support. Be firm and set aside a couple of days a week to spend with them. Lastly, establish boundaries that will help you keep a healthy distance from your work. For example, practice leaving work at work and making a list to organize and prioritize tasks. Having a list will allow you to decide which tasks for the day are essential, and which could be left to another day.

If you are a workaholic, consider taking time off and getting help. The group Workaholics Anonymous has chapters throughout the US and internationally. Their goal is to offer resources and support to aid recovering workaholics. They distribute information through e-newsletters and books in addition to meetings in-person, online, and over the telephone.

To see whether or not you are a workaholic, take advantage of this quiz featured on Your life apart from work: interests, relationships, and rest, is too important to be sacrificed to your business. When these things start to go, your business may not be far behind.


1) Entrepreneur Training for Entrepreneurs: “Why Workaholism Prevents an Entrepreneur from Building His Business”

2) Wikipedia: “Workaholic”

3) Forbes: “Addicted to Work”

4) CNN Money: “Are you a workaholic?”

5) Docstoc: “Workaholic-Doesn’t Sell on a Resume”