toxic productivity

My grandpa was a workaholic. 

And his family and community applauded him for it. They would say things like, “he is a great provider” or “he is working hard for his family”. And it was true. His workaholic ways allowed my grandmother to stay home and raise the kids, but his well-being paid the price. He spent his golden retirement years in poor health and living with regrets.

Family and friends will intervene with an alcoholic but cheer on a workaholic. 

Workaholism today is known as toxic productivity. And while that was a trait to be admired in my grandfather’s era, we know better now. Today’s leaders recognize that a culture of toxic productivity turns out employees who are overwhelmed at work. This eventually leads to burnout and decreased productivity.  

It is crucial for leaders to combat a toxic productivity culture and recognize symptoms of job burnout to intervene early. Learn more about what contributes to a culture of toxic productivity by bringing in a resilience speaker to help manage and prevent burnout in the workplace, you can build resilience at work

Underlying Factors of a Toxic Productivity Culture at Work

Similar to my grandpa overworking himself to support his family and meet the expectations of his generation, toxic productivity is when the constant need to “do” negatively impacts one’s physical, mental and emotional health.  

Many of us live in the mindset of always needing to be doing something, which can lead to stress, anxiety, depression and even burnout. Leaders who want better for their employees and are ready to effect change must first recognize the signs of toxic productivity that arise when employees have an unhealthy way of working.

Four Signs of Toxic Productivity

Employees who are consistently working too hard will display signs of toxic productivity. As a leader, it is important to understand if your workplace’s culture leads to employees feeling overwhelmed at work and implement ways to manage and prevent burnout in the workplace

In addition to creating a resilient culture with the support of a resilience speaker, leaders should watch for individual employees exhibiting the following four signs of toxic productivity.

1. Working Extra Hours for a Long Time

While it’s normal and even acceptable, to sporadically work long hours to finish a project, or catch up before or after taking time off, doing so regularly is a sign of toxic productivity. Rather than setting healthy boundaries at work, some employees work on weekends, start early and stay late, and incessantly check work emails after hours.

2. Feeling Guilty when Using Free Time to Rest

An employee with toxic productivity rarely, if ever, unplugs from work. The mindset that tells that individual they always need to “do” something doesn’t allow them to fully recharge as they worry about what else they “should” be doing. Even when forced to step away from work for vacations, holidays, or even long weekends, they can’t turn their mind off and enjoy the downtime.

3. Not Prioritizing Self Care

Many people have worked their entire careers believing prioritizing self-care equals being selfish, but that is not the case. In fact, when someone focuses on self-care, it increases their ability to help others, as they have recharged their own energy. 

In the workplace, recovery is the best way to create a resilient culture.

Employees who suffer from toxic productivity tend to pour their energy into work and ignore things like rest, exercise and spending time with friends or family. When an individual doesn’t set reasonable boundaries at work they may even skip bathroom breaks or forget to drink water, both of which are extremely unhealthy habits.

4. Experiencing Anxiety and Burnout

When a leader does not encourage and support a culture of wellness in the workplace, your employees are more likely to experience job burnout symptoms. Your team may also feel anxious about work and worry that they are not doing well or contributing enough.

A culture of care and resilience doesn’t happen overnight. Great leaders take action when they see these indicators and intervene with a targeted approach to ease job burnout symptoms before it’s too late.

Five Ways to Avoid Job Burnout Symptoms by Breaking the Cycle 

As the leader, it’s your responsibility to “break the cycle.” You can create a positive workplace culture where employees don’t feel obligated or encouraged to become “workaholics.” 

That begins by building a culture of resilience at work and engaging a mental health motivational speaker to support your efforts. Additionally, outlined below are key strategies that you can use to help manage or avoid burnout in the workplace.

1. Set Priorities and Recognize What’s Important

Today’s fast pace makes it easy to lose sight of what’s essential during the hustle and bustle of daily life. Although it seems impossible to stop, breathe and think when there is always so much to accomplish, it’s imperative.  

Nurture positive mental health by deflecting the constant bombardment of messages instructing you to do more, faster and better. Giving in to those feelings can actually be counterproductive. Instead, set priorities and focus on what’s important. 

Be clear and thoughtful about your daily practice to build resilience and self-care priorities so you can focus on tasks that will help you attain your goals. By analyzing what truly matters and taking actions that keep you on the right path, you will set yourself up for greater success and happiness.

As a leader, set an example for your team and foster an adaptable resilient culture that results in greater productivity and overall well-being.

2. Set Boundaries

How many times have you heard “boundaries are bad”?  Oftentimes, it’s easy to view boundaries as a sign that you aren’t committed, aren’t a team player or simply don’t work hard enough. But in reality, setting healthy boundaries at work is a vital way to build resilience and increase productivity. 

Boundaries are essential for managing stress

Setting boundaries allows us to say “no” without overwhelming feelings of guilt. It also enables us to recharge ourselves, which is vital to our well-being and that of our teams. Boundaries are a leader’s best friend, especially when you establish it as part of a caring culture that encourages positivity and overall employee satisfaction.

Some boundaries that will help increase productivity and positivity at work include:

  • Limiting the amount of time worked 
  • Taking regular breaks
  • Making sure employees take PTO benefits
  • Declining additional projects or responsibilities

When employees take care of themselves by setting boundaries at work, they will feel happier, healthier and be more productive.

3. Establish More Realistic Goals

The phrase, “shoot for the moon and reach the stars” is motivating but also misleading. Consistently shooting for the moon can lead to burnout because it is unattainable. Instead, create smaller, realistic goals. 

Lofty goals are admirable, but they can set your team up for failure, which leads to feelings of defeat and nothing gets accomplished. But when you set goals within your ability and you reach them, you become successful without becoming a slave to productivity.  

Smaller, more achievable goals allow you to focus on what’s important without getting sidetracked by an overwhelming workload. By encouraging your employees to reach for goals that are within their grasp, you are helping them achieve success, which will increase overall productivity and help avoid burnout. 

4. Acknowledge Your Feelings

It’s easy for leaders to think they need to push themselves to the limit to be successful, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. That approach only leads to a cycle of toxic productivity where an all-consuming focus on achieving goals limits any opportunity for self-care.  

If the cycle is not broken, it will ultimately result in burnout, anxiety and depression.

It’s important to acknowledge when you feel overwhelmed or stressed and take time to recharge. This might mean taking a break from work, connecting with your support system or indulging in hobbies or activities that bring you joy. 

Doing things to renew your energy will help you bounce forward through any challenges and foster a culture of wellness in the workplace. By doing this, your team will take notice and follow your lead.

5. Appreciate Your Accomplishments

As a leader, you recognize the achievements of your team, but how often do you appreciate your own accomplishments? Doing this can be a powerful way to create positive change in the workplace. 

By celebrating your own successes, you are cementing each milestone, which will empower you to continue pushing toward your overall goals.

This also builds a foundation of self-esteem and self-worth, which are both important traits of a successful leader. By nurturing positive thoughts about yourself, you will be less likely to judge your own attributes against others and can combat feelings of inadequacy. 

Appreciating your own strengths is a great way to begin building a culture of resilience.

How a Resilience Keynote Speaker Can Help Manage Burnout in the Workplace and Break the Cycle of Toxic Productivity

Breaking the cycle of toxic productivity in yourself is the first step towards creating a workplace culture that encourages healthy boundaries and a harmonious work-life balance. By implementing the strategies outlined above and hiring a mental health motivational speaker, you encourage your employees to be the best they can be. 

An expert resilience keynote speaker will not only guide your efforts to create a more resilient workplace culture, but they will also be your best resource as you embark on your own journey toward breaking the cycle of toxic productivity

Lead your team away from toxic productivity and towards a successful future.