Productivity Culture: A False Idea of Productivity Has Lead Us Astray


Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.

I have often labelled myself  a workaholic without considering where this frame of mind originated, and why I feel so compelled to work until I’m blue in the face with little regard for my own mental and physical wellbeing.

Productivity is a very dangerous concept, especially to those of us with mental health concerns. It implies that we must be (over)achieving all of the time to be content with who we are and what we stand for. It undermines the simple struggles that are often challenging when suffering from mental illness, fuelling self-hatred and frustration at why we cannot change who we are.

With the rise of social media this has become worse as the snapshot of people’s lives that we consume easily leaves us feeling unaccomplished or less worthy in pretty much all aspects. It fuels comparison, which only leads to self-perpetuated hate for what is an otherwise perfectly amicable situation we find ourselves in. It is a tool that we all use to some extent in our free times, during late-night insomniac scrolling sessions, and even during lectures due to the pandemic. We cannot escape the thing, and so our attitude towards it needs to be adapted for changes to occur.

I personally have a very damaging relationship with productivity and where the line needs to be drawn between work and play, which goes beyond the use of technology and into the workings of everyday reality. During my time in education, I have battled with how much time spent working is enough for me to feel productive and content with the work I produce. I often catch myself getting tense and defeated at the prospect of having to take an hour or two for myself to prevent burnout.

However, this is more of a problem of societal perception towards the concept of productivity, especially when it comes to mental health. In the workplace if someone takes on too much work to fuel their high-functioning anxiety that is praised, and the worker is rewarded for their hard-working attitude, but if someone takes a step back from their job to nurse mental illness they are perceived as lazy and work-shy.

The reality is that the worker that seemingly puts in more effort is perhaps fuelling their anxieties whereas the worker that is negatively viewed is perhaps fighting against the productive label and doing what is right for their needs. We need to start looking deeper beneath the surface at the root of the problem for things to really change. We all react differently and adapt our physical being to our mental being according to what we as individuals see fit for our own situation, and the pressured trend for productivity needs to be amended for this stigmatised view to end.

No matter how you choose to work, do not undermine your successes at the hands of a society convincing you that productivity needs to be carried out. Physically do for your mental health what your mind cannot do alone—take breaks and be patient with yourself—and all other success will fall into place naturally.


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