“I’m addicted to work, but I’m taking care of myself!” » : mindfulness to the rescue of « workaholics »

Do you know the “boulomania”? This is work addiction, a term derived from Anglicism workaholism to describe the uncontrollable need to work constantly, invented by the American psychologist and religious educator Wayne Oates in 1971. This addictive phenomenon is not related to the consumption of substances such as alcohol or drugs, but describes a behavioral addiction, in the same way as addiction to gambling and gambling, for example.

Workaholics are people who feel a need to work so hard that they do not hesitate to endanger their physical and mental health, as well as their interpersonal relationships. A recent study indicates that 37% of workers use professional digital tools outside working hours. Legally, work addiction has been added to the list of psychosocial risks.

Read more: What drives us to become “addicted” to work?

Addiction to work does not qualify the occasional increase in working time, linked to a large file to be processed, for example. To speak of work addiction, this behavior must become compulsive and last for several weeks. As with other addictions, this addiction sets in little by little, often without the knowledge of its victims. The compulsive need to work creeps in. It always encroaches a little more on family life, leisure or holidays, to the point of becoming a source of conflict, even rupture.

The protective role of mindfulness

Science has already demonstrated the key role of personality in addiction. Using the scale developed by American researchers Kirk W. Brown and Richard M. Ryan, it is possible to assess the personality trait related to mindfulness, which consists of deploying sustained attention and awareness of what is happening in the present moment. The capacity for self-regulation that underlies mindfulness has already demonstrated its beneficial effects on behavioral addictions, such as gambling or smartphone addiction.

Read more: What if meditation helped you drop your phone?

Nevertheless, no study until now had explored the protective role of mindfulness on work addiction.

Is it possible to protect oneself from this addiction and its deleterious effects on the balance between work and private life with the help of mindfulness? To answer this question, we conducted a study from a total sample of 1022 employees, published in the scientific journal Social Science &Medicine. Our research is based more specifically on two separate studies, aimed at investigating the protective role of mindfulness as a personality trait (study 1) and as a practice (study 2).

The first part of our study allowed us to demonstrate that this protective role of the personality mindful also extended to work addiction. Indeed, out of 307 French employees, the people with the highest levels of mindfulness were also those whose tendency to work addiction had the least impact on the work-life balance.

Faced with psychosocial risks such as work addiction, companies and administrations must act. Among the solutions are the MBSR program (mindfulness-based stress reduction) of mindfulness training, recognized for the rigor of its protocol and which was the subject of the second part of our study.

This MBSR program is an educational approach that guides participants in their practice of mindfulness meditation and encourages them – through experiential learning – to develop an ability to respond more effectively to stress. Combining practice and theory time, this program takes place over eight weeks.

We sent a questionnaire to 715 people and formed three groups of employees: a group of employees who had never practiced mindfulness meditation (group 1), a group of employees who practiced mindfulness meditation but had never following an MBSR-type training program (group 2), and a final group of employees practicing mindfulness meditation and having followed an MBSR program (group 3).

Our results show that the practice of mindfulness plays the same protective role as the personality trait that characterizes mindfulness, insofar as employees practicing mindfulness meditation (group 3) are better able to contain the harmful effects of their addictive tendencies at work on their work-life balance than non-practicing employees (comparing groups 1 and 2). This protective effect is amplified by mindfulness training (effect demonstrated by the comparison between groups 2 and 3).

Developing knowledge

When we know that burnout and addictions affect more and more workers (34% of employees affected by burnout in 2021), in even more alarming proportions in a teleworking situation (according to 41% of employees and 47% of managers who believe that the addictions are more frequent in telework), it is important to consider ways to prevent both the emergence of this phenomenon and its consequences for health and well-being.

Beyond the many known beneficial effects of mindfulness, such as the reduction of stress and anxiety, new avenues of research are opening up on its key role in the prevention of addictions. It is essential to continue field experiments and to develop the state of knowledge around mindfulness so that a fair assessment of its effects can finally take precedence over beliefs and fears.

We would like to warmly thank Emmanuel Faure and Sophie Faure for their precious help in collecting the data (lahuitiemesemaine.fr).

We wish to give thanks to the author of this post for this incredible web content

“I’m addicted to work, but I’m taking care of myself!” » : mindfulness to the rescue of « workaholics »

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