Erik Pham, the Founder of Health Canal, a health and wellness website that empowers people to lead healthier lives.

Being successful at work is likely to require some degree of productivity. You’ll be required to meet deadlines and deliver quality work to further the interests of your organization.

While productivity does play an important role in the workplace, sometimes it can become unhealthy. The term “toxic productivity” has come to describe situations in which productivity becomes excessive and can take a negative toll on mental health.

Let’s explore toxic productivity further and its causes while also discussing solutions for overcoming it.

What Is Toxic Productivity?

Toxic productivity refers to a level of workplace productivity that moves beyond simply meeting deadlines and doing one’s job. With toxic productivity, one may work excessively long hours, feeling they must always be on the clock. It’s closely related to the concept of being a “workaholic.”

Causes Of Toxic Productivity

Toxic productivity can have several root causes. Consider the potential ones below and see if there any that resonate with you that you can identify.

Certain Personality Types

Some people may be more prone to toxic productivity than others. For example, research shows that perfectionism is related to workaholism.

People who have perfectionistic personality types may be especially hard on themselves. They’re afraid of failure, and they don’t believe there’s any room for mistakes. This can lead to a toxic level of productivity, as a person may believe they need to be seen as a “perfect worker.”

People who score high on the trait of neuroticism are also more likely to fall victim to toxic productivity, according to the above research. This can lead people to believe they are only valuable when they’re being productive.

Job Demands

In some cases, toxic productivity can be related to the demands of a particular job. Some jobs are stressful and demand a significant amount of time and effort from workers. For instance, a job with strict deadlines and a high number of deliverables can enable toxic productivity because it leaves little to no time to take a break.

Workplace Culture

The culture of a particular workplace can also lead to toxic productivity. Research has found that companies actually influence the productivity levels of their workers.

Some companies may condone or even promote long working hours. Others may even demand that workers put in long hours, sacrificing personal time for the sake of productivity. A workplace culture that values productivity over employee well-being can contribute to an excessive focus on productivity.

Examples Of Toxic Productivity In The Workplace

If you’re worried about toxic productivity in yourself or a loved one, it’s helpful to have examples of this behavior. The following can be indicators of toxic workplace productivity:

• Working even when seriously ill to meet deadlines.

• Fixating on producing large quantities of work.

• Failing to use paid time off because of worries over reduced productivity.

• Sacrificing one’s health and well-being in favor of work.

• Feeling anxious when taking a break from work.

• Regularly staying late at work with no additional compensation or giving up weekend time to get more work done.

Solutions To Prevent Toxic Productivity

Toxic productivity is not healthy, and over time, it can lead to lower quality work. When toxic productivity leads to burnout, physical and mental health can suffer. Burnout is also linked to exhaustion and cognitive impairment, which can negatively affect work performance.

Given the negative effects of toxic productivity, it’s important to take steps to reverse it. Consider the solutions below.

1. Go Home When The Work Day Ends

You are not obligated to stay beyond the end of the workday to achieve additional productivity. There is only so much you can accomplish in one day.

Make a point to go home when you reach the end of your workday. Any work that remains can be completed the next day.

Prioritize what tasks must be accomplished on a particular day, and finish them first. Leave lower-priority tasks for later in the day. This way, if something doesn’t get done, you won’t feel compelled to work late to complete it.

2. Reframe Your Thoughts About Productivity

Perhaps you have conditioned yourself to believe that you must be productive at all costs. This can lead to putting in long work hours and working to the point of exhaustion.

If you have this mindset, it can be helpful to reframe your thoughts. Working too long can lead to fatigue, which ultimately hurts your productivity.

If you’re working excessively because of toxic productivity, consider the effects of fatigue on your performance. Taking a break is likely to come with benefits.

3. Allow Yourself Time For Rest

Taking time away from work for rest does not mean you are lazy or unproductive. In fact, spending time resting rejuvenates you and prepares you to be more alert when you are working.

To prevent toxic productivity, it’s important to view rest as essential. Regularly incorporate rest time into your routine to protect yourself from the consequences of toxic productivity.

During your rest time, take time for activities and hobbies that you enjoy. You can also spend time doing relaxing activities like yoga, meditation or massage.

Looking Ahead

If you’re excessively focused on being productive at work, maybe even working through illnesses, giving up vacation time and spending your evenings and weekends working rather than relaxing, it could be that you’re caught up in toxic productivity.

Regardless of the root cause, it has numerous negative outcomes and ultimately leads to burnout, which is harmful to your physical and mental health.

The first step is to be aware. Now, it’s important to take steps to reduce the negative effects of toxic productivity.

If you’re a workplace leader, you should aim to promote healthy behaviors in employees. Workers should not feel pressured to work until the point of exhaustion. Work with your HR leaders to develop a healthy culture that reduces toxic productivity.

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