According to researchers at Henley School of Business, workaholics are increasingly logging on to the internet at home to continue to work outside the office. The new study suggests most successful employees are at risk of anxiety, depression and isolation as they increasingly use the internet. Logging on after work can become an addiction and overachievers are more likely to suffer from withdrawal symptoms when they switch off. Companies overlook the dangers, since these individuals are generally the most successful.
Professor of policy, governance and ethics at Henley School of Business, Nada Kakabadse says, “Compulsive behavior occurs when workers cross an invisible boundary and their internet use becomes unhealthy. They spend increasing amounts of time online, waking up three times in a night to check their emails, eating patterns become irregular, relationships suffer and they become totally absorbed and feel anxious when separated from the computer. For overachievers it is worse and they are more likely to burn-out more quickly. They begin to lose judgment and make mistakes.”
The researchers expected to find compulsive internet use among the unemployed and the young; people with time on their hands. Discovering that overachievers were at the highest risk came as a surprise in the study. The ‘strongest predictor’ of compulsive internet use was working excessively, the team found. “Internet supports all areas of human interaction. However, the omnipresence of this phenomenon could have double-edged sword impact on our lives,” said co-author of the study, Dr Cristina Quinones-Garcia of Northampton Business School. “Those individuals who use technology to enable working beyond office hours tend to be highly successful in their jobs, but are at a high risk of developing problems,” she added.
“Organizations seem to focus on the extent to which individuals lose working hours using the Internet for personal purposes,” Dr Quinones-Garcia said. “However those individuals who work long hours and use technology to work outside office hours are overlooked mainly due to their success.” She suggests companies issue guidelines on safe internet use outside the workplace. “We urge companies not to underestimate the risks involved in encouraging working excessively.” She concluded, “It could be that higher damage to the companies comes from over-achievers who are somehow encouraged to work long hours.”
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