I have long suspected that many of the workaholics I've known are really escapists of a sort: folks who would rather hide in an office than talk to their spouses or cope with their kids. So their long hours elicit little sympathy from me.

On the other hand, I feel for anyone like myself (naturally) who is not a true workaholic but has to contend with periodic overload.

One of the frustrations of being in this category -- and responsive to the demands of both job and loved ones -- is that there is no good answer on where to work after hours.

If you head home in order to socialize a bit, intending to resume your labors there, it's easy for a relaxation break to turn into an evening of inertia after an already hard day. And if you do overcome this tendency, you're subject to a corollary of Murphy's Law: Your larger business crises will occur simultaneously with important claims on your attention from someone near and dear -- whom you can't duck when you're at home, whether you want to or not. (Teen-agers in particular are prone to confrontations when their parents have the least time and energy to spare.)

If you actually succeed in starting on your "homework," but either your housing or your concentration is less than ideal, another problem lurks at home: You. Why should your children, and maybe their friends, have to turn down the stereo and talk in whispers, or your mate have to tiptoe around or squelch the TV?

Most of the above also applies, of course, to trying to work at home on a weekend or holiday. And the more you attempt to accomplish, the more you're liable to discover you need some information or materials that are back at the office.

What if you go into the office instead, or stay late on a weekday, ignoring your personal life as much as possible? You find you're both less alone and more alone than you'd like to be.

In spite of the hour or day of the week, nearby phones ring and ring, begging to be answered. When you go to the coffee machine, you return and find your office locked and the copier turned off -- the kind that won't warm up for an hour if you've used it recently.

You are secluded, however, from people who could help you. A document that you need to study has inexplicably migrated from your disposable typewriter ribbon and the supply room is closed. And the work you manage to do leads you to formulate some key new questions for someone in the research department who is smart enough not to be around.

If, like me, you are employed downtown but live out where public transist is good only on weekdays, a weekend stint at the office also involves a lot of time that's wasted simply in driving back and forth.

The moral of this whole dilemma, obviously, is to get your work done during your regular office hours. And that just takes the kind of modest improvement in efficiency that would solve our federal budget deficits.