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What Is Toxic Productivity?

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Do you overcommit to projects? Do you get annoyed when your coworkers fail to reply to your late-night messages? Do you work 12-hour days no matter what? Do you usually skip the gym because you feel compelled to finish a report tonight that you know no one I going to read until the next day? If the answer to these questions is an emphatic yes, then you may have fallen prey to toxic productivity. We’ll discuss what it means and how you can help yourself and your team overcome this negative behavior.

“Productivity for the sake of productivity can be toxic in a workplace. It creates divides between team members, fosters a competitive workplace culture, and leads to employee burnout.” HR Morning

Toxic Productivity Explained

Everyone strives for productivity at work. Meeting deadlines, finishing projects on time, and getting things done are all very well except when you start neglecting your mental and physical health and private life. This is where productivity becomes toxic: when it interferes with not only your life but with your interactions with your team.

According to Forbes, “Toxic productivity can be described as the uncontrollable need to feel productive at all times, at all costs, and it can become harmful to your mental and physical health.”

Toxic productivity can be hard to detect. However, here are a few examples of this kind of behavior to consider:

  • You don’t take time for yourself.
  • You respond to every email and message promptly, even if it comes in late at night.
  • You’re quick-tempered or frustrated with your coworkers for no apparent reason.
  • You feel burned out.
  • You don’t take breaks throughout the day.
  • You’re noticeably exhausted.
  • You don’t exercise or eat healthy food.
  • You’re not really productive despite the hard work and long hours.
  • You feel guilty if you’re not busy.

Clearly, you need to address this behavior, whether it’s yours or your team’s. Not only productivity suffers, but so does employees’ health. According to a 2015 study published in The Lancet, people who work over 55 hours per week are 33% more likely to have a stroke and have a 13% greater risk of heart attack.

How to Prevent This Toxic Behavior

Although it may sound counterintuitive, toxic productivity hinders productivity because team members feel exhausted and burned out. Team leaders need to take proactive measures to decrease the likelihood of this happening.

First, employees must understand that their well-being is more important than anything else. Team leaders and managers must encourage their team members to strike a healthy work-life balance. By offering flexible hours, for example, or remote work capabilities, you ensure that they have more time to spend with friends and family and look after their physical and mental health.

If you notice a team member showing signs of toxic productivity, the last thing you want to do is reward this behavior. It will encourage others to do the same, and productivity will suffer in the long run.

Don’t forget that managers must set an example! Practice what you preach and take breaks and clock out on time. Also, take time off. Vacations are good for your health!

When setting goals, make sure they’re realistic and attainable in terms of scope and timeframe. Putting unnecessary pressure on your team will result in undue stress and kill motivation.

Wellness at work should be a priority. It’s been proven that taking regular breaks helps you be more productive because breaks reduce stress levels and help you focus on the task at hand. Also, encourage wellness initiatives like yoga classes or group walks.


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