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Are you a workaholic?

26th Dec 2018
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The dangers of workaholism often surface during the yuletide period and accountants are often among the most susceptible to them, writes Philip Fisher.

It is a sad fact that far too many of our number are workaholics. Their ex-wives or ex-husbands will have told them so on numerous occasions, typically in phone calls from half-empty marital beds to lonely offices, but those afflicted never listen.

The situation has been made far worse by modern means of communication, not to mention the frequently unreasonable demands of clients.

In the past, if you went away then, give or take the odd 20p shoved into a phone box for a panic call, your clientele, the tax authorities and anyone else who had a vested interest accepted that fact, albeit occasionally grudgingly.

Now, there are many colleagues and clients who do not understand the concept of a holiday, expect phones to be turned on and manned 24/7 and e-mails to be accepted and responded to practically before they are received.

The acid test of your own susceptibility to the dangers of workaholism (depressingly that word is now recognised by Microsoft Word's spellchecker) can most easily be taken during the yuletide period.

In an ideal world, you should be able to answer no to each succeeding question below.

  1. Did you do any work on Christmas Day?
  2. Did you do any work on Boxing Day?
  3. Given that it was a Monday this year, did you do any work on Christmas Eve?
  4. If so, did you finish several hours earlier than usual?
  5. Are you taking off Thursday and Friday?
  6. Will you work over the ensuing weekend?
  7. How about New Year’s Eve?
  8. And New Year’s Day?

Those with no susceptibility to this nasty disease will have comfortably answered in the negative to every single one of those questions - yes, really. An acceptable alternative might be to answer yes to some of the intermediate days, with the codicil that you have plans for a holiday in January or perhaps August, and have been saving up the leave allowance with those in mind.

Anyone who enjoys a flutter could probably bet against 50% of accountants passing this test, even if you take questions five and six out of the equation and allow for a short day as reasonable on Christmas Eve.

Indeed, there could be thousands of accountants who put a dampener on Christmas Day by spending large portions of it glued to their laptop or iPhone when they should have been carving the turkey, entertaining the children or listening to the Queen begging our politicians and her subjects more widely for a brief burst of peace and harmony.

In the long run, working 365 days a year under pressure is unhealthy and will probably shorten your life. Perhaps it would be good to have a New Year’s resolution that includes turning off the mobile phone for a full day at least once a week, taking your full allocation of holiday and, allowing for some knot tying on the first day of each vacation, enjoying a number of total breaks from anything to do with business regularly throughout the year.

Alternatively, work yourself into divorce, estrangement from the kids and an early grave, since that is the pattern that the true workaholic’s family will instantly recognise.

(Just in case you wondered, this article was written very late on Christmas Eve by an accountant who needed to clear the following day to get some serious work done).

Replies (20)

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By Homeworker
28th Dec 2018 10:03

Yep! Working now and have a client on his way to see me. We work from home and moved from Hertfordshire to Leicestershire to try and get a life but it hasn't entirely worked yet. Email is making me far too accessible.

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By Diana Miller
28th Dec 2018 10:17

Yup working but having just looked up the definition of workaholic I am not sure if that is a fair definition. I would prefer, right now, to be sat up in bed with a good book and a steaming cup of coffee but feel the indignant fury of the client whose tax return might otherwise go in late is not worth the risk.

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blue sheep
By Nigel Henshaw
28th Dec 2018 11:10

yes and I am happy that way thanks, nothing wrong with enjoying your job!

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By Ian McTernan CTA
28th Dec 2018 11:12

Yep working. Worked Xmas Eve and Boxing Day. I'm not a workaholic.

During the nice warm summer months I will get out and play golf three times a week. Whilst it's cold and miserable outside I will work long hours and earn accordingly so that I can have all that time off later when the weather is more suitable to golf!

It's called work/life balance. Work hard for a couple of months then relax for the rest of the year- sounds like a good deal to me!

Then again, I work for myself...

Thanks (3)
28th Dec 2018 11:34

Hmm, one is confused nowadays, is basic economic theory correct, is competition, survival of the fittest , maximising personal wealth via the maximization of shareholders wealth the aim, or should we all take a chill pill, concentrate on issues of sustainability in it's various constituents? One pole has to have the 51%, are we starting to believe our own BS, I.e. turning away from capitalism.

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By ClaireB
28th Dec 2018 11:40

Working here too, and will try and fit in a few hours over the weekend. But definitely not a workaholic as it's a choice at the moment - catching up on things I could have done earlier but took time out to go to my children's carol service, Christmas shopping etc.

Anyway, no time to chat... must get on.

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28th Dec 2018 11:53

In work relaxing after a stressful Christmas with the wife and kids!!!!!!!!!!

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By Michael C Feltham
28th Dec 2018 12:06

I believe it is very hard to build ANY business from a zero momentum start to success without:

1. Working harder than most; and,

2. Making sacrifices:

When I was much younger, I was indeed a workaholic; I needed to be and believe me, it was much easier then to build and operate a business than it is now.

In my practice, I often work at weekends, on public holidays etc. "Needs must when the devil drives!"

I will take business calls when away in Europe: and receive and send emails: however, these are restricted only to a few important clients.

If you don't like it, then work as a postman, perhaps?

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By mkowl
28th Dec 2018 12:38

Saves becoming an alcoholic like the rest of the country this time of year. Just doing my ICAEW annual return so that my first email of 2019 isn't the snotty one saying its now late

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By kevinringer
28th Dec 2018 13:49

I'll be answering 'yes' to all 8 questions. I don't consider myself to be a workaholic. I would rather not be working but I am a professional and I feel I have a professional obligation to help my clients comply with 31 January deadline and that means working a lot of hours now. I'll be working every day right up to 31 January. I then go down to 40 hour week which feels like a part time job in comparison. I'm also taking the first week of February off to go into rehab to be reintegrated back into society.

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By Husbandofstinky
28th Dec 2018 13:38

Yes to all of them bar the obligatory no to Question 4.

Reading that article brings it all home. All wrong imo.

Since SA started, it has been full 10-11 hour days every day, seven days a week post Boxing Day all the way until the end of January.

Ok the money is good but as each year passes that aspect falls more and more insignificant. Every year SA season seems to get less tolerable. The pointless constant chasing after those perennial 'leave it to the last minute' clients, a cull of which is way over due.

Just looking forward to February and hopefully a lovely spring and long summer before this all begins to ratchet up again late Autumn.


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Replying to Husbandofstinky:
By kevinringer
28th Dec 2018 13:50

Couldn't agree more except for the spring/summer because this year we'll have MTD to keep us busy.

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By Ben Lauritson
28th Dec 2018 14:34

My doctor claims I'm a workaholic, but I don't know what he's talking about!

Just because I enjoy a cup of workahol to help me wake up in the morning, drink some workahol with my breakfast, pour a snifter of workahol with my mid-morning snack, skip lunch and have some workahol instead, quaff a bit of workahol to get me through the afternoon, have a glass of two of workahol with my dinner, then off down the pub for a few pints of workahol, followed by a sip or two of workahol just before bedtime, doesn't mean I'm a workaholic one little bit!

Seriously, who does he think he is, calling me a workaholic?


This pointless satire was inspired by the memory of a pub patron many years ago having a drunken rant that his doctor advised him he was an alcoholic. The irony of the situation still amuses me now.

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Replying to Ben Lauritson:
By Michael C Feltham
02nd Jan 2019 11:40

Do you drink bottled Workahol or the draft variety? Personally, I much prefer the draft.

Insofar as really good Workahol is concerned, I only imbibe the French chateau, ideally the Premiere Cru type, mainly Bordeaux: however, due to its cost, only for high days and holidays.

Nothing beats the sheer luxury of a glass or two of French Premiere Cru Workahol with the wondrous epicurean delight of a tuna sandwich, bolted in seconds over a hot keyboard.

Nicely dilutes the foul taste of Gaviscon...

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Mark Telford Chartered Accountant
By Mark Telford
28th Dec 2018 17:27

This article is stuck in the 1990's. People don't work in regimented fashion anymore.

Working on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Years Eve - makes perfect sense, great days to get loads done - phone doesn't ring and hardly any e-mails.

Its all about balance and getting the family onside.

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By cfield
28th Dec 2018 20:33

With all the family arguments that seem to happen each Christmas, I reckon a bit of time away from them in front of the computer is a whole lot less stressful!

Each to his own. So long as it's your own free choice and you're not pandering to demanding clients or racing the clock to beat tight deadlines, a bit of light work for half an hour or so is a welcome break from the "festivities".

Same goes for holidays. I would never tolerate a boss or a client demanding my time whilst on holiday, but that hour or so between the beach and dinner as the sun sets is a nice time to check emails or catch up on the news.

As someone else said, it's work/life balance. The key is to work because you want to, not because you need to.

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Glenn Martin
By Glenn Martin
30th Dec 2018 18:20

As Harvey Spector would say "the only time success comes before work is in the dictionary".

The article is about 20 years out of date and most people work on an annual hours.

I am busier than I would like to be, but the trade off was that I had a great summer and I never work a weekend apart from January, I probably do 35 to 40 hours per week between April & October.

I was away every weekend from Easter to end of September and watched nearly every world cup game in the summer.

I took on some very good clients in the Autumn so I am little bit behind on tax work meaning I will have a busy January, maybe working 50 hours + to get through the work.

I took the opportunity to clear out a load of easy returns in the break between Christmas and New year which is a good thing as not much else to do.

I don't mind working extra in the winter if it means I dont have to in the spring and summer months leaving me time enjoy myself, and do my hobbies.

Putting the extra hours in January also gets your billing up so you can pay for the Christmas you have just had or to slap down a deposit on a holiday for the summer.

So no, I am not a workaholic just someone who believes you only get out of your business what you put in.

These books etc where you can run practice in 3 hours per week are utter nonsense.

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By cfield
29th Dec 2018 14:54

Yes, these tests are about as useful and well thought out as Labour's 6 Brexit tests. May I suggest 6 more relevant and meaningful tests?

1) Are you too busy to go on holiday twice a year?
2) Do your family complain about you working too hard?
3) Do you sometimes miss social occasions due to work?
4) Are clients constantly phoning you at unsocial hours?
5) Are you always battling to meet tight deadlines?
6) Are you feeling totally stressed out due to work?

If the answer to any of these is Yes, you need to improve your work/life balance.

Slight difference of interpretation though. A workaholic is someone who is either addicted to working or highly motivated by it. Most people caught in this trap only do it as they feel they have to, not because they enjoy it.

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By killer33
31st Dec 2018 09:24

Today is first day at work since fri 21st and I feel much better for having decent break.

Just checked my emails and discovered nothing particularly urgent, so will now extend my holiday by two days :-)

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Steve Edwards
By stevo5678
02nd Jan 2019 14:02

No to all of them.

I'm growing a business to have the life I want to live. I'm big on life and career/business goals and get that you may need to work to put the time in over xmas sometimes. For all of you who think this is normal though I suggest you read the E Myth Revisited which says that if the business is solely reliant on you to work until you drop, then you don't have a business you have a job!

This is the first phase of being a business owner, working until until you drop. The next phase is to take on staff and the final phase is to run it in a systemised fashion where everyone knows their role.

Not only a job but a job that makes you work over the Christmas period....

If you love accountancy that much then fair enough, I see myself as a business owner first, accountant second. Surely the end goal is to do more of what you love in life, if you can't spend Christmas with love ones then when can you have some downtime?

Of course you don't have to have staff but I'd suggest you need to cherry pick the clients if working alone to give you the work life balance you require.

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