Toxic Productivity is Poisoning Your Work Mentality — 3 Ways to Fight It

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Sara London for Hive
Sara London for Hive
July 19, 2024 at 11:25AM UTC
A study from Prodoscore revealed that from August of 2019 to August of 2020, productivity increased over 5% among its 300,000 users. While to many, this might sound like an incredible accomplishment, it came at a considerable cost: when the pandemic began, employees began working on weekends at a 42% higher rate. Studies reveal that this “tele-pressure,” the unspoken assumption that one should be constantly available day or night when working from home, can impact one’s mental health, relationships and even their family.
You might wonder why people began to overindulge in work or companies didn’t step in and raise some concerns about their employees overworking themselves – and perhaps you had the same mentality, stuck inside your house in a perpetual quarantine with nothing to do but work. 
This phenomenon that has proliferated through the work world still has its claws in many – and it’s called toxic productivity.

What is toxic productivity?

If you’re mistaking activity for achievement, you might be falling prey to toxic productivity.
Toxic productivity is a mentality that your current level of productivity is never enough. It turns stretch goals into tasks you should be accomplished within the year and time off into guilt-ridden anxiety. When a task is done, you can’t enjoy it thinking about all the other people you know who are probably working harder than you are. And once you’ve finished a project, all you can think about is how much you’ll be berated for only putting in 110% when you should be putting in even more.
Toxic productivity can come from inside of oneself, or it can emerge from one’s work environment. Social media can be a place where toxic productivity festers, like in viral tweets about using your quarantine time to tackle the project you’ve always wanted to accomplish. If you didn’t utilize your time at home, these posts say, it was just because you weren’t disciplined enough. But ultimately, toxic productivity is internalized, and the voices emphasizing what you haven’t done over what you have done are actually coming from the same choir: yourself.
Toxic productivity can twist the way you feel about work, and if you’re beginning to fall into that trap, it can make even the most enjoyable of tasks into a painful self-punishment. Work isn’t bad, and work shouldn’t make you feel bad – if you feel that toxic productivity is pushing you in all the wrong directions, you’ve got to start pushing back.

How do we fight it?

1. Shed your guilt.

The first step in fighting against this mindset is to admit that you might have a bit too much on your plate. It’s hard to say that you’re in over your head when you feel like everyone around you is accomplishing more than you are, but it’s almost a guarantee that your coworkers are experiencing some of the same pressures to succeed as you are.
Even if you’re having trouble finishing a task that you’ve seen others do with ease, don’t be so hard on yourself for it – you have different skills that are just as valuable as the one that isn’t in your wheelhouse. With team-wide resourcing from Hive, you can see if your allotted time on a task matches up with your team’s, and you can be sure you’re not spending too much time on a single action.

2. Create a culture of helpfulness

It can be easy to fall into old patterns, checking emails on the weekends or doing extra work late into the evening. It can especially be challenging when you’re working long hours on something you tell yourself that you should be doing with ease, as you may feel that you don’t deserve help. But asking your coworkers for support is the most intelligent and productive thing you can do in your time of need. It not only gives you a network to rely on, but it also destigmatizes weakness and humanizes the workplace.

3. Integrate mindfulness

To eliminate some of your toxic productivity, try integrating mindfulness into your work schedule. Think carefully about why you do what you do, and make sure that you approach actions, meetings, and projects with intentionality. Don’t just take on tasks because you think that they’re important or because they seem like a good use of your time. Otherwise, you might end up biting off more than you can chew just because you’re following the workflow of those around you – a workflow that may not fit best with your individualized work style.

4. Don’t be afraid of time off

Finally, the best way to tackle toxic productivity is to take time off. Even if you have nights and weekends to yourself, you might find that you’re answering emails or taking care of little work tasks as you’re destressing in front of the TV. In fact, 79% of respondents in a Korn Ferry study noted that they intended to use more vacation days, but they just never got around to it. An additional 82% said that even if they did take a break, they wouldn’t be unplugging completely, and a fifth of vacationers still check in with work multiple times a day during their holidays.
Having fun on vacation is serious business, and your toxically productive mentality might be consistently telling you that you’ll be behind when you get back or you’re missing out on valuable information. With Hive, you can leave those worries at home – you won’t miss a thing with action cards that track changes, list additions or attachments, and tag relevant parties all in one place.
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This article originally appeared in Hive — the world's first democratically built productivity platform. Learn more at Hive.com.

What’s your no. 1 piece of advice for someone struggling with toxic producitivity? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss members!

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