December 4, 2020

A Workaholics Guide to Breaking the Toxic Productivity Cycle

Working less equips the brain with energy and focus.

We get a natural high and feeling of satisfaction when we cross every item off our to-do list. Nothing wrong with that since our culture values go-getters and high-achievers, right? Actually, it turns out that this habit may lead to diminishing returns. Addiction to productivity and shortchanging rest and sleep may be taking a massive toll on our mental and physical health.

Addiction to productivity and shortchanging rest and sleep may be taking a massive toll on our mental and physical health.

Technology has undoubtedly increased human capabilities and has granted us the ability to multitask beyond belief. After all, this superpower lets us order takeout, chat with our friends, balance our bank account, and have a stranger drive us across town all at the same time. However, a study published in 2019 in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health doesn't share the same enthusiasm.
World Health Organization Vitamin D

Constant connection to technology may increase workload and stress. Photo Credit.

The study surveyed 313 healthcare professionals to find the connection between technology, work overload, and detachment from work at the end of the day. Overall, the researchers found that constant connection to technology increases workload, making it harder for people to leave work stress at work. Two scientists succinctly described what work overload feels like: you feel the need to work faster, get quicker responses, multitask, and minimize breaks. Being in perpetual 'on' mode prevents the mind and body from recovering and wears down mental and physical health.

Less work = more productivity

It may sound counterintuitive, but working less equips the brain with energy and focus, making it easier to get more done. Drs. Jan de Jonge and Maria C.W. Peeters described the benefits of practicing a sustainable work culture: people are happy, healthy, energized, passionate, and engaged. To achieve this seemingly elusive balance, they said people need three important things at work:
A shocking, 48% of Americans consider themselves to be workaholics, according to a survey commissioned by The Vision Council. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) doesn't (yet) have diagnostic criteria for workaholism, but for those wondering if they're part of the 48% of workaholics in America, the Bergen Work Addiction Scale highlights seven criteria to consider:

You think of how you can free up more time to work.

You spend much more time working than initially intended.

You work in order to reduce feelings of guilt, anxiety, helplessness and depression.

You have been told by others to cut down on work without listening to them.

You become stressed if you are prohibited from working.

You deprioritise hobbies, leisure activities, and exercise because of your work.

You work so much that it has negatively influenced your health.

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