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Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.
Finding Meaning Through the Many Windows of Wellness

Are You an Engaged Workaholic?

Carrie Steckl, Ph.D. Updated: Apr 13th 2012

No, I'm not asking whether you are betrothed and pulling all-nighters in order to plan the perfect wedding. I'm asking whether you work all the time and actually enjoy it.

smiling business womanImagine working 70-80 hours a week, rarely taking a day off (even on weekends) yet waking up each morning excited for the day's challenges. You have energy, are in good health and have meaningful relationships despite the limited time you have to invest in them.

If you identify with this description, you may meet the criteria for a relatively new group labeled by researchers as "engaged workaholics." These folks love what they do - so much so that it doesn't feel like work. Others may view them as downright "workaholics" who must be suffering physical, emotional and personal problems, but some researchers question whether there is anything wrong with these ultra-happy workhorses.

The term was originally coined by Wilmar Schaufeli, a professor of work and organizational psychology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands along with his research team. They distinguish engaged workaholics from classic workaholics, a not-so-happy bunch.

Classic workaholics tend to work the same number of hours as engaged workaholics, but not because they love what they do. Instead, they are compelled to always be plugged in, never feel like they are doing enough, and obtain little fulfillment from their work. They also tend to suffer more health consequences, mood problems and interpersonal troubles than engaged workaholics as well as those who are not workaholics at all.

This concept piqued my interest because it speaks directly to the path to vocational wellness. In my previous post, I described vocational wellness as "understanding one's abilities, skills, and knowledge base and integrating those things with the kind of work found most meaningful and satisfying."

Wow. It sure sounds like an engaged workaholic has achieved vocational wellness, doesn't it? And when this happens, a ripple effect may occur that boosts intellectual, physical, emotional and social wellness too.

But is this the only way?

As much as I love being a freelance writer, I know myself well enough to be sure that I wouldn't want to be one 70-80 hours a week. I'm a newlywed. I like to run. I enjoy cooking at home instead of grabbing food-to-go for every meal. More than anything, I value spending time with my husband (I suppose taking a day off yesterday to see the Cubs play the Brewers automatically disqualifies us from the engaged workaholic designation).

Does this make me lazy or less vocationally well? I don't think so.

There are many paths to wellness. If you have been blessed with work that you love and enjoy spending almost all of your waking hours within that universe, that's wonderful. On the other hand, if you enjoy your work but want time for other pursuits and can find that desired balance, I see vocational wellness there too.

It's all about creating the life you want.

I admire the research on engaged workaholism and believe it has merit, particularly in today's work-oriented culture. Yet I couldn't help but wonder whether Schaufeli and his researchers spent 70-80 hours a week conducting their research. If so, I certainly hope they enjoyed it.


Carrie Steckl, Ph.D.

It’s a true blessing to have you visit my blog on mental health and wellness. I also write blogs on faith and caregiving in addition to teaching part-time for Columbia College of Missouri. For more information about my background and writing, visit my webpage at

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