Let’s demystify these concepts

It is common to hear the expression “I’m a workaholic”, but is this addiction to work a positive thing? Recently, the topics of burnout and mental health at work have been increasingly debated. In this article, some concepts are discussed and explained, helping us to better understand the kinds of relationships that a person can have towards work. Let’s understand some of the concepts of work engagement, workaholism and burnout, considering the research that has been developed.

Definitions and the relationship with burnout

Burnout is a reaction to long term occupational stress, where there is no quality recovery time from work, and is characterized by emotional exhaustion, negative attitudes towards work and a tendency to evaluate work negatively. This state affects mental and physical health, and can cause sleep disorders, depression, cardiovascular diseases, anxiety, and infections.

Workaholism is a compulsion to work hard that has negative consequences for a person’s health. A workaholic is normally a person who works to go beyond the goals that are asked for, and their motivation is usually external, for example, working because of threats, punishment, disapproval, or approval by others. They are also individuals who usually give a lot of importance to work in their life and who see it as something that can increase their self-esteem. Usually, a workaholic has difficulty in interpersonal relationships outside the work context. These factors are strongly linked to the development of burnout.

On the other hand, we have work engagement, which is a positive and satisfactory state that the worker has in relation to his work. Like workaholism, in engagement it is common for people to work much more than what is asked, however, they work because they enjoy and feel fulfilled doing it. Their motivation is therefore internal, which makes their levels of energy and resilience higher. Someone with work engagement does not neglect their personal life, on the contrary, they invest time in socializing, pursuing hobbies or volunteering. These types of activities are important for recovering from work-related stress. These factors lead to work engagement being a state opposite to burnout, and the increase in this state in employees, will decrease the incidence of burnout.

Both work engagement and workaholism characterized by people who work a lot, but do they have the same performance? The answer is simple, no. It has been studied and proven that a workaholic, even working hard, does not normally have a high performance, but the opposite happens in engagement.

Work engagement and well-being

The engagement experience has advantages for the organization where individuals work and for the workers themselves as it affects several dimensions of their personal life. In addition to performance, as we have seen, personal well-being is also a characteristic of someone experiencing this state. Work engagement predicts a better level of health, both psychologically and physically, greater satisfaction with life, both at work and at the family level, and predicts a reduced frequency of absence from work related health problems.

Organizations thus play an important role in promoting the work engagement of their employees, if they want to have better results. Research shows us that the following factors are important in this task.

1. Autonomy and organizational resources such as training and technology, which remove obstacles to getting the work done.

2. A positive organizational climate that encourages employee growth and development.

3. Control over work, feedback, social support and learning opportunities.

Work engagement and personality

In addition to the role of the dimensions described, the characteristics of the individual himself can be a determining factor in the development of the state of engagement at work. Research shows a relationship between an individual’s personality and work engagement. It has been shown that individuals with a proactive personality, meaning, individuals who tend to act to modify the environment around them, are more likely to shape and influence their work environment, which makes them feel more engaged in their work which will predict better performance.

The ability to persist, be dependable and be organized is usually a predictor of engagement in most professions and extroversion was shown to be a predictor in occupations that required interaction with others.

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