Do you live to work or work to live? Although employees in Germany generally strike a good work-life balance, a significant proportion of the population actually displays workaholic tendencies, according to a new study. 

Employees in Germany show workaholic behaviours

From stressing over multiple competing projects and accepting long working hours, to obsessively checking emails after hours and feeling guilty about taking time off, a substantial proportion of employees in Germany are showing signs of workaholic behaviour. 

According to a study presented by the trade-union-affiliated Hans Böckler association last week, a third of the German workforce is working “excessively”, while another 10 percent exhibit “addictive” tendencies. The study used interviews with 8.000 employees in Germany, conducted in 2017 and 2018, before the coronavirus pandemic and mass switch to home working further blurred the boundaries between people’s working and home lives. 

Compulsive working present across industries and worker groups

Researchers concluded that around 9,8 percent of people displayed addictive and “compulsive” attitudes towards their work. 33 percent worked “excessively”, but not compulsively, while the majority – 54,9 percent – were more relaxed in their attitude towards their jobs. 

While self-employed workers and people working in higher positions were more likely to display addictive behaviours – 12 percent of managers showed signs of addiction, compared to 8,7 percent of non-managers – the study’s authors concluded that this was not a marginal phenomenon affecting only a small group of managers, and that excessive and compulsive work is widespread across all groups of workers, in all different industries. 

People working in agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry and horticulture had a higher tendency to work addictively, while people working in computer science, natural science and geography were the “least affected” by the phenomenon. 

There were also significant variations according to company size (with people working for smaller companies more likely to overwork than those working for larger, international companies), age (with young people aged 15 to 24 more likely to be addicted to work than those aged 55 to 64), and gender, with 10,8 percent of women landing in the addicted category, compared to 9 percent of men. 

Workaholism no worse in Germany than other countries around the world

The figures for Germany broadly aligned with those of other countries around the world. In the US, a good 10 percent of workers also displayed addictive tendencies, whereas workers in Norway seem to be a little more relaxed, with just 8 percent registering as addicted. 

The study authors called for further research into the factors influencing work addiction, and how it can affect the health and wellbeing of employees. 

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