Sure, they appear to be willingly putting those extra hours into work. But are they addicted to it? Fascinating research on the New Zealand film industry (you know the one) suggests that the social addiction model developed around substance use can be extended to the social patterns that occur around work, especially when the availability of that work is uncertain and arrives in short bursts. If there is a problem with managing the impact of work on their life, raising awareness is an important first step.
If you are a spouse or partner of a Boris in an unhappy place, you might want to suggest a move to other pastures. After all, it appears that a partner's perception of the problems that work causes has a powerful influence over and above the workers own perceptions. You can help them to make the hard decision. But assuming it hasn't come to that, how can we help keep Boris on the up?
Firstly, he would do well to keep his team onside. Your Boris is probably lovely, but it's possible they've leant towards treating subordinates instrumentally in order to get on. If they are seen to be 'in it for themselves', things can roll on without too much turbulence until team members perceive that they are being left on the outside, at which point things are likely to deteriorate. And if they make a big thing about running a caring workplace but don't walk their own talk, their stock is likely to fall very quickly. On the positive side, if they do it right, Boris can have a positive impact on his subordinates through a role in their coaching. How to get involved - alongside the coach and the individual themselves - without being a third wheel? Here's how.
Maybe work is particularly stressful - some of our loved ones exist on the front-lines of society, or are stuck in toxic work situations. The evidence suggests that if you experience violence in your work, ruminative thoughts are likely to worsen the effects these have upon your psychological health. Ideally they should speak to a counsellor or therapist, but in the meantime you might help them find ways to take their mind off the incident.
OK, but Christmas is coming up and I want something concrete, something to give. No problem, here are two suggestions:
- A sitting cushion. There is a current vogue for research into mind-body techniques like meditation or focused breathing, which generally agree that these have positive effects on stress reduction.
- Alternatively how about running shoes - I recommend barefoot ones. Evidence suggests that workplace burnout and generalised depression can feed each other in a vicious cycle - but that exercise can be effective in breaking that cycle, through its benefits to sleep, decreasing stress, and making you feel better about yourself.