Forget Work-Life Balance, Workaholics Need Boundaries

Workaholics need boundaries, not balance. The idea of
work-life balance to a workaholic just doesn’t make sense.

A balance requires an uneasy equilibrium of trying to
satisfy two masters – work and non-work.

The truth is that there are “happy workaholics” who wish
there were more hours in the day to do more work.

To force people, who have a real passion for work, into a
fixed number of non-work situations in order to put
“balance” back in their lives is a mistake.

The Harvard Business Review Blog Network contained a post
by Ed Batista that identified 3 boundaries that those of
us who are workaholics can use:

#1 Temporal Boundaries: We designate certain times
exclusively for family, friends, exercise, and other
non-work pursuits. Thus, we can select the times for
non-work activities based on our work priorities.

#2 Physical Boundaries: We purposely remove ourselves from
our work space and our work tools. As such, we create
that physical distance that can help recharge our

#3 Cognitive Boundaries: This is the most difficult
boundary to establish. When we love something or someone,
we can’t resist the temptation to think about it. An
important part of this boundary is removing ourselves from
being “held hostage” by emails, texts, smartphones,
laptops, etc. that can draw our attention back to work.
As such, we need to find non-work activities that liberate
our minds from the preoccupation of work such as a hobby,
meditation, coaching a sports team, etc.

HR POINTER: For those of us who are workaholics, there are
a few cautions that we need to know.

The first caution is working for a company or manager that
knowingly takes advantage of our workaholic nature. Thus,
we need to protect ourselves from being exploited
especially if we are early in our career path.

Second, we need to protect ourselves from ourselves in
order for us to be happy and productive workaholics. The
boundaries noted above will help provide us with that

Third, we need to ensure that we don’t unknowingly force
our workaholic nature on our direct reports who prefer
that work-life balance.

Fourth as managers, we may need to be the person who sets
the boundaries for our “happy workaholic” employees, who
may not have the skills to do it on their own. Without
such boundaries, these employees can easily burnout.

In trying to bring work-life balance into the lives of
people, there is an old line that is often used which is,
“On your death bed, would your regret be that you didn’t
spend more time at work or that you didn’t spend more time
with your family?”

As shocking as it may seem, there may be workaholics who
choose “spend more time at work.”

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