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All Work And No Play Equals World First Research

New Zealanders have a reputation for being hard workers, but some of us are working too hard. New research aims to find out more about our workaholics.

Lynley McMillan of the University of Waikato is exploring the impact of workaholism on individuals, their families and their workplace. Her work is being supervised by two senior Waikato academics: Professor Mike O’Driscoll and Dr Nigel Marsh.

“While most overseas studies have found that workaholics do not appear to enjoy working, our New Zealand research has consistently shown that workaholics display two very strong characteristics; they enjoy what they do and they are driven to keep on doing it,” said Mrs McMillan.

“Workaholics tend to work or think about work anytime and anywhere. It would not be unusual to find a workaholic thinking about work while appearing to watch television or read a book. Workaholics also use laptops or mobile phones to work after formal work hours in places like cars, aeroplanes and cafes.

“We have already found workaholism among factory staff, nurses, mechanical engineers and office workers, in addition to the traditional roles of managers, directors and business people. What’s more, the workaholics we have studied so far watch four hours less television per week and spend 2 ½ hours more on community and cultural activities than non workaholics.

Interviews have been conducted with 421 employees of five major New Zealand companies. Of that group, 50 workaholics and 50 non-workaholics will be keeping a 24 hour diary for a 7 day period, at two separate occasions over the next year.

“These diaries are a world first in workaholism research and will capture activities such as time allocated to sleeping, eating, working, travelling and shopping,” said Mrs McMillan.

“We will also ask the participants’ partners to comment on the quality and intimacy of their relationship, and how it is impacted on by workaholism. This is another new and important variation on traditional research.”

Mrs Millan’s research has been made possible through a Top Achiever Doctoral Scholarship, which is administered by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology and funded by the Ministry of Education. By early 2001 she will have adequate information to determine the extent of impact that workaholism is having in the New Zealand workplace.

“For the first time, we will be equipped to provide employers, workaholics and their families with constructive prescriptions for maximising the positive effects and minimising any negative effects workaholism,” said Mrs McMillan

“This information will equip New Zealand’s employers to actively manage work environments in a way that is beneficial to both workaholic employees, their colleagues and their families.”

For further information: Lynley McMillan, University of Waikato, Mobile 021 987 664, Emerald-Lynley@xtra.co.nz Madeleine Setchell, Foundation for Research, Science and Technology Tel 04 498 7806, Mobile 025 40 60 40, madelein@frst.govt.nz


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