What Is Toxic Productivity and How to Fight It?
World Health Organization added workplace burnout, classified as an occupational phenomenon, to the International Classification of Diseases in 2019. This didn’t come as a surprise to any employee who has ever experienced overworking them to the point of mental and physical exhaustion.
While acknowledging that burnout is a severe issue is a noteworthy first step in the right direction, many business leaders and employees struggle to set clear boundaries and achieve the much-needed work/life balance.
The situation deteriorated 2 years ago when millions of employees started working remotely due to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. Although this work model offers flexibility and autonomy rarely experienced in the office, many remote employees may feel pressured to constantly prove they’re productive.
The Trap of Toxic Productivity
While having the urge to answer one more email or finish one more simple task may seem harmless in the beginning, it can slip into burnout, harming employees’ mental and physical health, driving their productivity down in the long run.
Ironically, workers who are striving to be highly productive by being always available for work, usually end up underperforming because of exhaustion and disrupted work/life balance, becoming victims of toxic productivity.
So the questions that this article may help you answer are:
Where’s the line between healthy and toxic productivity?
How can you recognize it?
And most importantly, what can you do to help your employees break this vicious cycle?
Different Faces of Toxic Productivity
Expert states that toxic productivity happens when employees have an unhealthy urge to constantly work and overperform. Workers can do this for various reasons. They may feel that they aren’t doing enough, constantly fearing that they may lose their job.
Or they may suffer from the Impostor syndrome, thinking that they’re incompetent for the role they have in a company, feeling that this incompetence will become obvious if they stop overworking.
Some people may bury themselves in work to avoid dealing with personal issues. Others may measure their worth only by work success and hefty bank account. They perceive taking breaks as a sign of weakness and a waste of time, and their work becomes a priority over spending time with family and friends, and bare necessities like eating or sleeping.
The lack of self-care and a clear boundary between work and life may have devastating consequences on employees’ health and performance alike.
This is why you need to check out with your employees frequently, making sure they have all they need to be productive, without having to drain themselves. Advanced software for employee monitoring can offer a detailed insight into employees’ activities, helping you identify potential signs of burnout. For example, you can see who is continually working late but fail to produce quality results, getting a clear picture of toxic productivity.
When you identify employees who are overworking, becoming more tired or frustrated, and less motivated to do meaningful work, here are several things you can do to help them get back on track.
Steps You Can Take to Fight Toxic Results
- Set realistic, achievable goals that won’t drive your employees to overwork. Large, complex tasks will pressure employees to work harder, trying to meet set deadlines.
- Help them set fixed working hours while working remotely, using the monitoring agent widget installed on their computers. Having office-like work hours in front of them can help them unplug more easily.
- Encourage your employees to take regular breaks to eat, rest, and reenergize. People heading for burnout tend to ignore their essential needs, forget to have lunch or take their eyes off their screen for hours. They may think that taking breaks is a waste of time. By encouraging employees to take breaks, you’ll show that their well-being comes before productivity charts and numbers.
- Foster open communication, giving your employees the chance to speak sincerely about various issues, sharing similar experiences. Employees want to be heard and appreciated. They also need to know that they’re not the only ones battling toxic productivity.
- Create an effective Employee Assistance Program to offer confidential one-on-one meetings, short-term counseling, and provide follow-up services to employees tackling personal or work-related issues.