By Libby Kane

Workaholism is bad, right?

Wrong. A new study from the Rouen Business School in France found that workaholism, instead of being just a common descriptive trait of absent parents and that neurotic boss you used to have, can actually be a good thing.

The idea is that as long as workaholics are self-motivated and not damaging their physical or mental health, and are benefiting their company or pleased with their accomplishments, workaholism can be energizing. Stress, when it leads to these results, is considered a “positive motivator.”

Late Nights at the Office Still Aren’t Recommended

The study draws a line between being a workaholic and being over-worked. Over-working comes from external, negative motivators such as “the need for overtime pay or a cruel boss,” and “turns stress into distress.” That’s particularly interesting, because the U.S. is commonly recognized as the most over-worked country in the world.

While the study’s authors insist that the work-life balance of workaholics is fine—just a different balance than their co-workers—we can’t help but be skeptical. It’s often hard to distinguish whether we’re internally or externally motivated in our approach to a job, which makes it similarly difficult to tell “different balance” from “unbalanced.”

So, Am I a Workaholic, or Over-Worked?

Last time you stayed late at the office or worked from home all weekend, what was your reasoning? (Of course, your answers don’t mean you are one or the other, but they will give you an idea what to look out for.)

“It had to get done—and I rocked it.”
“I knew that my work would make a difference, and I was right.”
“My boss really needed it done, and I really need her to be happy.”
“That overtime pay was really going to come in handy.”

If you answer either of the first two, you were motivated internally, which is a characteristic of workaholics.

If you answered either of the second two, you were motivated externally, which is a characteristic of people who are over-worked.

Work-life balance can often be tweaked by refusing to let bills and chores pile up or making time at work as efficient as possible, so time off the clock is also off the grid. We recognize that the lines between work and life are often blurry, but here at LearnVest, we’re all about maintaining your physical and mental health right alongside your financial.