According to a recent article in the Guardian a palliative nurse who has counselled the dying in their last days has revealed that one of the most common regrets we have at the end of our lives is, ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’.
All of the men that Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, cared for in the last 12 weeks of their life regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. They had become a workaholic.
The rise of the workaholic
Recent economic conditions have meant that staff fear losing their jobs and as a result ‘workaholicism’ in businesses throughout the UK is alive and thriving. And it’s unlikely to change in the near future. Staff are working longer hours to demonstrate that they are needed in that role and avoid the possibility of redundancy.
Whilst workaholics can bring certain short-term benefits such as high productivity levels they also can have negative effects on the business and their team. When they feel they are doing all the work, carrying the business on their shoulders and not being supported they can bring tension to the team. This can demotivate others, encouraging lethargy and an assumption that someone else will pick up the pieces. Additionally they may also suffer from burnout, exclusion and work frustration which can increase employee absence levels.
Workaholic employees aren’t necessarily engaged employees
Creating a workforce of engaged employees does not mean creating a workforce of workaholics. Engaged employees put more discretionary effort into their work without the need to work all hours.
Engaged employees also have a commitment and a desire to do the job to the very best of their ability and they tackle tasks with both energy and enthusiasm.
Engaged employees bring new, innovative ideas, fresh insight, lead by example and infuse their co-workers by their own engagement. Because they believe in the purpose of their role and the business, and demonstrate that belief through their actions and attitudes, they are less likely to seek opportunities to work elsewhere.
As a result engaged employees live the brand and have a high productivity level at work. They are also more likely to have higher levels of job satisfaction, career fulfilment and employer loyalty. But above all they also have a well-balanced work/family life that prevents the problems associated with workaholicism such as fatigue, stress and regret.
Stress is a warning sign
In fact stress is now the single biggest cause of sickness in the UK according to the Health and Safety Executive. Their research suggests that stress costs UK employers billions of pounds in lost staff productivity and over 105 million days are lost to stress each year, costing UK employers £1.24 billion per annum.
If a higher proportion of the UK employees’ were fully engaged with what they do for a living then it would relinquish the burden on those who feel that they are carrying the business on their shoulders and are at serious risk of becoming disengaged if too much is placed at their feet.
Employee engagement is crucial for both employees and employers
If businesses don’t take steps to ease the pressure on workaholic employees and develop engaged employees instead then both the employee and business could suffer. Work should be a fulfilling part of every employee’s life, and as such employers need to address employee engagement levels within their organisation before losing their over-worked top performers. Employees won’t wait years for their employer to get their act together, life iss too short and today’s employee is very prepared to move on to find that all important work/life balance.
John is responsible for the motivation division of p&mm ltd and a Director on the board of the IPM. Specialising in developing, implementing and directing many large scale staff motivation, recognition and employee communications programmes.