Distinctions between Overemployment, Overwork, Workaholism, and Heavy Investments in Work Time
Adam Smith once observed, “the innate human desire to improve one’s lot is strong enough to make workmen apt to overwork themselves and ruin their health and constitution in a few years” (1776, Wealth of Nations, Book One, Chapter VIII, paragraph 44). Contemporary labor economics has focused far more on that first part, the “desire,” i.e., preferred labor supply, and much less on whether workers are able to get the hours they truly desire; or on the second part, that even when one’s labor supply could be considered voluntarily provided time and effort, it could lead to unanticipated adverse consequences on their own well-being. Industrialorganizational and occupational health psychology has focused on this latter issue of negative well-being consequences, but less so on the difference in the extent to which situational labor supply is entirely voluntary versus at least partly involuntary. The emerging issue of “heavy work investment” re-frames the issue of the motivations behind labor supply preferences as having short-term costs but often with potential longer term payoffs (Snir & Harpaz, 2012). It could benefit from finer detail regarding the characteristics of workers who work the hours they prefer vs. those who work longer hours than they personally prefer.