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Workaholism syndrome in times of agile work

Workaholism syndrome in times of agile work

The quarantine period changed not only personal experience, but also working practices. The companies found themselves, almost suddenly, managing the organizational emergency, quickly arriving at agile work or smartworking.

But is this agile work really so “intelligent” as to improve the well-being of all workers? In a recent report on agile work in Italian Public Administrations (Tripi & Mattei, 2020) during the covid19 period, the authors note that intelligent work tends to decrease the physical and psychological space between private and working life, as it makes the hyperconnected worker. This can have positive effects in terms of mobility, productivity and multitasking; but also negativities related to the increase in work-related stress, but above all of syndromes not easily detectable, such as that from Workaholism. It is, in fact, a chameleon syndrome, which easily camouflages itself, since a real dependence is established on the part of the worker;

The term Workaholic (literally in Italian ‘work alcoholic syndrome’, more generally ‘work addiction syndrome’) was coined by Oates (1971), as a contraction of the words’ work ‘, or’ work ‘and’ a (lco) holic ‘, that is’ alcoholic’. It refers to people whose need for work has become so strong that it can pose a danger to their health, personal happiness, interpersonal relationships and social functioning (Oates, 1971).

Although considerable attention has been paid to the workaholism construct in recent years (Fassel, 1990; Garfield, 1987; Kiechel), little empirical research has been undertaken to deepen understanding of this phenomenon (Porter, 2001; Robinson & Post, 1995, 1997). This, in fact, has influenced the lack of clarity in the operationalization of the construct of the work addiction syndrome and, consequently, also on its identification and evaluation. For example, researchers have proposed the existence of different types of workaholic behavior patterns (Scott et al., 1997). Naughton (1987) presents a typology of workaholism based on the relationship between professional commitment and obsessive-compulsive tendencies.

On the other hand, it is interesting to note that, beyond the individual differences that contribute to defining a workaholic worker identikit, there are also cultural aspects. In the Network Society (Simmel, 1991), in fact, which built the culture of connection, work can follow human resources in any place. Technology, therefore, becomes a means that (col) binds to the office. In recent decades, technology has made workaholism more prevalent than ever. This also happens because, culturally, being ‘busy’ is a badge of honor.

In conclusion, agile and intelligent work is an excellent strategy to face a crisis of any nature (from the pandemic to the economic crisis) by facilitating the company, but also the worker. However, we must not forget to reconstruct, even in the virtual context, moments of socialization, but above all of support and attention to work ‘vulnerabilities’.