The word workaholic generally has a negative implication--and with good cause. Working too much is associated with high blood pressure and other stress-related diseases. As the physical and mental effects of overwork take hold, your focus may suffer and your productivity may decrease, throwing work-life balance even further out of sync.
Surprisingly, though, a recent study finds that working even very long hours may not pose the same kind of danger--at least not under some circumstances.
The research, as reported in the current issue of Academy of Management Discoveries, finds no evidence that long hours alone give rise to those risk factors.
As the article explains, "While the majority of workaholics work long hours . . . compulsive work mentality poses a more serious health risk than the act of working long hours." But even compulsive overwork isn't necessarily associated with bad health effects. Essentially, it's OK to be a workaholic if one or more of these circumstances apply:
You're engaged in what you do.
At its best, engagement--usually demonstrated through a visible commitment to your role and the work you contribute to--can make you feel absorbed and immersed in what you are doing. When you are working and you forget everything else around you, it gives you effervescence and exuberance. It helps you feel you have the stamina and stress to solve problems and meet challenges. Instead of adding to your stress, it gives you energy.
You're invested in your work.
For many workers, long hours feel arduous and stressful. But if you are genuinely invested in what you do--that is, if your job aligns well with your talents, abilities, and values, and you give deeply of yourself in the course of your work--you'll stay inspired to do your very best. Your skills and talent may form the foundation for your success, but the most important factor is how much of yourself you put into what you do, and how well your work matches what you really want. Once you build the habit of invested work, ordinary things become easier as your abilities are complemented by a strong work ethic, and you become doubly effective.
You're enthusiastic about your job.
Knowledge may be power, but it's enthusiasm--a positive outlook and a belief that what you're doing matters--that flips the switch. Enthusiasm fuels self-motivation and energy--and when you're enthusiastic and energetic, nothing is impossible and long hours don't matter. It's the difference between accomplishment and mediocrity. As Emerson once said, nothing ever great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.
You love what you do.
Finding a job you love is advice you hear everywhere, from the old adage "Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life" to Warren Buffett's admonition to "take a job you love." Passion and hard work make all the difference in any career. If you find work that gives you passion, you develop a plan that keeps you persistent and you structure your life in a way that motivates you to optimize your potential--and you do it all out of love--being a workaholic can be good for you. If you're on a mission to accomplish something you're passionate about, it can even be a virtue.
Whatever you do for a living, if you are engaged, enthusiastic and invested and you love what you do, your work will never feel like work. So go all out, keeping in mind your limits and liabilities and seeking appreciation and gratitude in everything you do. Because the more you love what you do, the more you'll work at what you love, and there's nothing wrong with that.