Is Working to Excess Bad for Health?



Many employees take pride in working long hours and being always connected to work. It is therefore not surprising that workaholism is today’s most rewarded addiction. But is working so much healthy? I present two studies that show the health consequences of working to excess. Study 1 investigates how working to excess can lead to burnout and what factors buffer versus intensify the impact of working to excess on burnout. The results show that employees with high work engagement are less likely to burn out due to excessive work demands, whereas employees working in high pressure work climates are more likely to take on excessive work demands, and therefore are more likely to burn out. Study 2 further unravels what types of working to excess are unhealthy, and we examine the impact of working to excess on physiological health. We differentiate between a behavioral component (i.e., work hours) and a cognitive component (i.e., workaholism) and we find that, unlike work hours, workaholism is positively related to employees’ risk for metabolic syndrome, a precursor of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. Similar as to Study 1, the results show that work engagement buffers the health risks of working to excess. Finally, I present current and future studies within my workaholism research program.