Are You Addicted to Workahol?

The Guardian has published some pretty tragic examples of workaholism:

When Marion’s workaholism caused her to lose the sight in one eye…

You don’t really need to finish that sentence for it to be a shocker. And yet:

…her response was to work even harder to prove she was healthy and fit enough to do her job.

And then:

John was hospitalised and off work for six months when he finally burned out after more than 20 years of workaholism. When he was eventually able to get up off the sofa on his own, his 21-year-old son had to physically struggle with him to prevent him from getting to his computer.

“I’ll always be ashamed of that,” John said.

I don’t want to make light of workaholism… but yikes.

I suppose the difficulty in taking workaholism seriously is that “I’m addicted to work” sounds like a humblebrag. It’s like saying “if I have one flaw it’s that I’m too perfect.”

So I’ll say this: we should take workaholism seriously because the very fact that we don’t exposes our messed-up values as a society. Hard work is considered a virtue. When it isn’t.

If there’s a fire and the firefighters “work hard” to extinguish the blaze then, yes, working hard is good. But that’s an extreme and short-lived example. Working hard at a PR agency? Working hard to stack cans of cat food? Working hard to become yet another influencer? Meh.

Treatment for workaholism is a welcome short term solution that picks up after a much bigger social problem. The long term solution is to change the way society thinks of work. Start with yourself perhaps.

A helpful phrase when you see people working hard is: “do you want a medal for shovelling shit uphill?”


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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

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