Toxic productivity—the dark side of being productive!

Along with mental and emotional issues, toxic productivity can impact personal and professional relationships. Are you being productive at the cost of your wellbeing?


In today’s fast-paced world, productivity is often hailed as the ultimate goal. Employees are constantly bombarded with messages about how they need to be more productive, work harder and longer and achieve more in less time. However, while productivity can certainly be a positive force, it can also have a dark side. This is known as toxic productivity.

Toxic productivity is the belief that productivity is the only measure of worth and that one must be constantly working and achieving in order to be successful or happy. This mindset can lead to burnout, stress and even physical and mental health problems.

What are the signs?

According to Udbhav Ganjoo, head – HR, global operations, Viatris, it is quite easy to identify someone being productive to toxic levels. “Such people will sacrifice personal time, hobbies and free time in favour of constantly being busy, and equate their self-worth with productivity. They will be ridden with guilt or anxiety while taking a break or while relaxing on vacation. They may overwork to the point of total burnout.”

The dark side of being too productive is that it can result in physical and emotional exhaustion, which can lead to depression or other mental health issues.

Ganjoo believes, “It is crucial to prioritise and recognise that work should not done at the expense of one’s well-being, both mental and physical. Employees who have experienced burnout in the past due to toxic productivity, should seek their employer’s or boss’ help to raise an alarm at the first warning signs of overwork or neglect of their own health and well-being.”

Harmful effects of toxic productivity

“CHROs and managers need to ensure that employees are not overburdened with work and that their workload is manageable.”

Jaikrishna B, group head – HR, Amara Raja Group

One of the key problems with toxic productivity is that it creates a culture where overworking is the norm. This can lead to a range of negative consequences, including reduced job satisfaction, decreased work-life balance and even physical health problems such as heart disease and stroke.

Another problem with toxic productivity is that it often leads to a narrow focus on productivity at the expense of other important factors such as creativity, social connection and relaxation. This can, in turn, cause a lack of balance in life and ultimately negatively affect mental and emotional well-being.

Jaikrishna B, group head – HR, Amara Raja Group, says, “The effects of toxic productivity are not limited to the workplace. They can also spill over into personal relationships, as individuals may become irritable, distant and unable to connect with others due to the constant pressure to be productive. This can cause a strain in personal relationships, leading to feelings of isolation, loneliness and even abuse.”

How to avoid toxic productivity

One important step is to shift the focus from productivity to overall well-being. That means, paying attention to all aspects of life, including physical health, emotional well-being and social connections.

To prevent burnout and maintain a healthy work-life balance, Ganjoo stresses that it’s important for individuals to set realistic goals, allow themselves to rest and take breaks, and seek support from family and friends when needed. He says, “It’s also important for employers and managers to prioritise the well-being of their employees and ensure a healthy work environment that promotes work-life balance. Employees should strive to achieve their goals, but they should also recognise that it’s okay to take breaks, to ask for help and to take care of themselves.

“It is crucial to prioritise and recognise that work should not done at the expense of one’s well-being, both mental and physical.”

Udbhav Ganjoo, head – HR, global operations, Viatris

Ganjoo goes on to add that individuals can adopt various strategies to avoid toxic productivity. One such strategy is to prioritise self-care by engaging in activities that promote physical and mental well-being, such as exercise, meditation and spending time with loved ones.

Jaikrishna B suggests approaching the issue from both the individual and the organisational level. At the organisational level, employers need to create a work culture that values employee well-being and recognises the importance of work-life balance.

He says, “CHROs and managers need to ensure that employees are not overburdened with work and that their workload is manageable.” It is also important to provide employees with support and resources to help them manage stress and maintain their mental health.

On an individual level, employees need to pay attention to their mental health and practise self-care. This can include taking breaks, setting boundaries and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation. It is also essential to seek help and support when needed, whether it be from a mental health professional, a friend, or a family member.

Productivity can be a positive force in lives, but employees must be careful not to fall into the trap of toxic productivity. By focusing on their own overall well-being, setting realistic expectations, and recognising their inherent value as human beings, employees can prevent toxic productivity from making their lives miserable and ruining their health and happiness.


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