Friday, September 18, 2020

C-Suite Agenda

Adopting Small Changes to Overcome Workaholism

Business Partners

We have an epidemic in America. Research has confirmed it and nearly half of all American’s suffer from it, yet few are doing much to change and if not addressed the numbers will only continue to increase.

This epidemic is none other than workaholism. 

In 2019 Vision Council commissioned research by OnePoll on workaholism and the results were frightening as they showed that of the 2,000 that participated in the study, 48% self-identified with being a workaholic. Which, and make no mistake, is an addiction, however, it is one addiction that few if any ever speak about in such terms.

While many will excuse this addiction by saying it’s ok because they enjoy what they do or saying this is simply what the job requires of them (lies that I myself used to use among others) the reality is, that this addiction is having devasting health and societal effects as evidenced by the following:

  1. According to research conducted by Forbes columnist Bryan Robinson, workaholics are at a higher risk of “marital estrangement and have a 40% increase in the likelihood of divorce.
  2. According to research published in The Harvard Business Review, workaholics, whether or not they worked long hours, reported more health complaints and had increased risk for metabolic syndrome; they also reported a higher need for recovery, more sleep problems, more cynicism, more emotional exhaustion, and more depressive feelings…
  3. A recent Gallup survey showed that 66% of Americans reported suffering from some form of burnout
  4. Recent research has shown that workaholism increases the likelihood of stroke, heart disease, mental health problems, diabetes, and abnormal heart rhythms

Given this, is it worth it? Hopefully, if you are in the 48% who associate with being a workaholic, your response is no and if so, the good news is that you can change. The even better news is that the path to change can begin with small steps, you do not have to quit cold turkey, you can make some small adjustments that will then lead to larger-scale change.

Below are some suggested small steps you can take to begin breaking the addiction that is workaholism.

Business People

Take a little bit of time each day to recharge 

Despite what we would like to think, we all have limits. It is a fundamental part of the human condition, none of us are superman. In fact, our brains are hard-wired to only work at peak capacity for 90-120 minutes and then . . . we need a break. This hard wiring is called ultradian rhythms and we all have them.

If you really want to be excellent at your work, you would do well to align with your brain’s needs and wiring. This requires working in what I call sprints – timeframes of 90-120 minutes and then taking a 15-20 minute break.

Not at all a big change, but if you begin practicing this approach at your work, you will find improved energy and clarity as you are giving your brain what it needs – rest! And as a side note, the break means a break, no cheating by taking your phone on a walk and replying to an email.

Take Time To Meditate 

This is not a big change at all as you can easily combine this with working in sprints. However, if you are feeling choosey and only want to take on one small change, give meditating and deep breathing a try. This does not mean you need to seclude yourself somewhere, you can actually do this at your desk in less than five minutes.

Practicing a time of meditation with deep breathing can help center and rest yourself and give you a much-needed dose of relaxation. There are many apps that are available to use to help record and guide this time.

It is one small step with a big payback and one that I have used and swear by the benefits.


If you associate with being a workaholic and are seeking a change, one of the very first steps you need to take is to communicate this to someone who is close to you. This may be a spouse, a co-worker, boss or friend, but simply coming to grips with the fact that you are addicted to your work is a small but enormous step.

There is a high likelihood that whomever you choose to confide in will already know this about you and perhaps has even tried to bring this to your attention.

If you are looking to make a change, start with talking about it with someone and exposing it for the negative impact it is having on you.

Find Out Why 

The reality is that any addiction is rooted in the need to escape or medicate something that we do not want to deal with. It may be a wounding from years past, a desire or need to feel important or a drive to prove that we are worthy. For me, it was a little bit of all of the above and one of thee things I used to medicate was my work.

The truth is you will never overcome the addiction of work unless you get to the underlying reasons for your addiction.

Admittedly, this is more than just one small step as it will take some effort and work and probably the help of a trained therapist, but the results will be the most freeing so make the first small step for this one simply being open to the idea of digging a bit deeper to your inner self.

No matter if you disguise the addiction of workaholism with sexy language like grind and hustle, the negative impacts of it are continually showing in America. Change is needed, but it does not have to be daunting, it can begin with one small step. Choose one of the ones that I suggested or pick another one, but do not wait to begin making the necessary changes in your life. What’s holding you back?

Carlos Hidalgo
Carlos Hidalgo is an author, keynote speaker and CEO. He and his wife Susanne have four grown children and have lived in Colorado Springs, CO since 2010. Carlos Hidalgo is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow Carlos on Twitter @cahidalgo.