How to Tell If You’re a Workaholic: 15 Alarming Signs

Woman working late in office

While it’s good to have a great work ethic and be passionate about your job, there’s a fine line between ambition and obsession. Indeed, if you spend most of your day pulling long hours and find yourself having an out-of-control urge to work, you’re very likely to be suffering from workaholism. And if you are, you’re almost certainly hurting your career without even realising.

There’s no way you can keep running on a lack of sleep, processed meals and the constant pressure you keep putting on yourself – before you know it, you’re completely burned out, and the road back to recovery will be an almost impossible one.

To help you avoid walking this path altogether, we’ve listed the 15 most common signs you might be a workaholic, along with tips on how to battle your work addiction.

1. You’re the First One in and the Last One Out

Although you might like to get in extra early to get through your tasks in peace and quiet, you also tend to stay late and work overtime on a regular basis preparing for the next day. So, if you notice that you’re switching off the office lights on a nightly basis, it’s probably time that you re-evaluate your work schedule to see what’s actually making you stay so late.

You may think that working a 12-hour shift will surely make you more productive, but the truth is you’re only damaging your work standard – and your health in the process. Remember: putting a standard shift in, and working to the best of your ability, is better than burning the midnight oil day in and day out.

2. You Constantly Check Your Phone

Are you guilty of being glued to your phone and checking your email inbox every five minutes, wherever you are – whether that’s on the train, in bed, in line at the cashier or watching TV (if you even have time for that)? And do you feel the need to reply to any emails you receive as soon as you receive them? After all, it would be rude not to, right?

Wrong! There’s nothing worse than making your brain work overtime and focusing on job-related tasks after you’ve logged off work for the day. So, if your phone and other technological devices at home get in the way of your downtime, it might be a good idea to disable notifications or switch them off completely.

3. You Always Feel Ill and Tired

Constantly feeling run down and tired? You might be overworking yourself!

Being addicted to work may sound innocent but it can actually have damaging effects on your health, inflicting a variety of illnesses like anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Remember: your immune system shouldn’t have to pay for the bad balance in your life!

4. Your Self-Worth Is Defined by Work Success

Are you happy only when you’ve received praise from your boss? Does any form of criticism get you down? If you answered ‘yes’ to both those questions, you’re – quite simply – allowing your work-life to control your entire happiness.

In other words, you rely on external validations from those around you. Marilyn Puder-York, an executive coach and the author of The Office Survival Guide, agrees: ‘Workaholics define their self and self-esteem by achievement only.’ It’s time to start looking outside of work for achievements that will make you feel successful!

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5. You Don’t Have Any Hobbies

Similarly, when work-related goals are the only thing that keep you motivated on a day-to-day basis, it’s time to reassess your life and realign your priorities. In other words, you need to find something that you enjoy doing outside of work that isn’t related to your 9-to-5 responsibilities. This could be joining a book club, socialising with friends, joining a sports club or dance class, or something else that you will enjoy doing and which will help you beat your work addiction.


6. You Feel That You’re Never Good Enough

Workaholics never know when enough is enough. ‘They are always focused on more and seeking to maximise everything, because they don't really know what success means to them,” says Jullien Gordon.

In other words, you could end up spending hours trying to perfect a report because you simply don’t think you exceed expectations – when, in reality, you’re a star employee. It’s important to know when to stop and when to realise that you’re actually doing a good job. And remember: your manager isn’t going to praise you every day for your work – they hired you for a reason, and that’s because they thought you have what it takes to do the job.

7. You Can’t Say ‘No’ to Your Boss

Do you find yourself saying ‘yes’ to every additional task your boss throws your way? And do you also volunteer to take any projects that are outside of your job role?

Spend some time to figure out how long you need on any given project and only accept work that is aligned with your experience. That way, you’ll avoid overworking yourself and you’ll be able to walk out the door at 5pm. Remember: it’s important to recognise when you’re stretching yourself too far and when you’re taking on tasks that are outside your skillset and don’t align with your career goals.

8. You Regularly Ditch Your Friends

You can’t say ‘no’ to your boss but you definitely can say it to your friends every time they ask you to hang out because you’re just too tired from spending over 10 hours at the office each day. And that’s without adding the two-hour commute into the mix.

At this rate, you’ll be left with only clients and colleagues stored in your phone’s contacts as your friends will get annoyed with your lack of making an effort. To make sure you have a good work-life balance, start saying ‘yes’ more to the people that really care about you.

9. You Only Have One Topic of Conversation

If you miraculously do make it to a social event, you only have one topic of conversation – and guess what that is? Work! Yeah, you got that right! If you’re not thinking about it, you’re talking about it.

To stop yourself from riding the bore-train, start expanding your general knowledge and get to know what’s happening in the world and the lives of others around you.

10. You Get Impatient with Everyone Around You

Your colleague Jane has left work early because she needs to make it in time for parents evening, yet you’re really frustrated that she didn’t get to work at 6am (like you did) to make up her hours. Whilst, Irene is gossiping at the water cooler instead of working on the shared project.

Nothing screams ‘workaholic!’ more than getting annoyed with everyone over every little thing. Remember: what really matters to most employers is the quality of their staff’s work, their productivity and the overall team morale – not the number of hours that you’ve kept your head down. So, just because Jane left early, it doesn’t mean she works any less hard than you – she’s just managed to create the perfect work-life balance for herself.

11. You Don’t Know How to Delegate

Do you complete every little task yourself because you know you’ll do it best and think that other people will only mess it up? If you do, you’re lacking something important called time management skills. So, learn to start delegating (and freeing up some time in your calendar for more important jobs in the process) and don’t forget to let people be responsible for the work they’re assigned.

12. You Eat Lunch at Your Desk Every Day

If you even remember to eat lunch, you do it at your desk, working through your lunch break because you think that there’s just no time to rest when you have all those pressing projects to finish. But are they really that important? Or can the work wait for tomorrow?

It’s important to take regular breaks to keep up your productivity levels and to avoid making careless mistakes. So, start making an effort to take your lunch break and perhaps even step out of the office to take your mind off your work for a bit.

13. You Take Workations, Not Vacations

Are you guilty of carrying your tablet or laptop around with you on holiday and logging in every day to complete a ‘few’ tasks and check up on your team? If so, it’s important that you realise you’re not allowing yourself to recharge your batteries. Instead, you’re causing yourself even more stress and are unable to understand when to draw the line.

So, next time you book a staycation or holiday, make sure you leave all your electronic devices hidden at the back of your drawer and allow yourself some time to unwind and enjoy life.

14. You’ve Never Taken a Sick Day

Do you still go into the office when you’re sick, thinking you’re some kind of superhero who can carry out the job to the same standard when you’re healthy? Well, it’s a bad idea. Not only do you risk making mistakes but also losing productive working hours. So, stay home and get some much-needed rest – your body (and, in turn, your boss) will thank you for it!

15. You Don’t Call Yourself a Workaholic

Being in denial is the first symptom of any addiction. If your friends and family keep telling you that you’re a workaholic, it’s time you took a long look in the mirror to discover what the causes are and how you can move forward. There are many treatment groups that you can join if you can’t seem to shake the bad habits away on your own.

Do you recognise some of these signs? If so, it might be time to rethink your career path or, at the very least, take some well-needed time off. You deserve it.

Join in on the conversation below and let us know if you’re on the verge of turning into a workaholic, or if you’ve already been through it all before.