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  • Writer's pictureAlex Young

Tackling productivity anxiety


Have you ever felt that no matter how much you accomplish, there’s always more work waiting for you? Do you sometimes prioritise work over basic wellbeing activities like exercising and eating? If so, you might be experiencing productivity anxiety and you're definitely not alone.



Understanding productivity anxiety


Productivity anxiety is the feeling that you should constantly be doing more, often leading to a sense of never truly being finished with work. It can manifest in various ways, such as neglecting self-care basics or becoming unusually impatient. While it’s not exclusive to the workplace, productivity anxiety is particularly pervasive among employees, according to a recent study by the HR platform Workhuman.


Key findings from the Workhuman study


The study revealed that over 80% of respondents experience productivity anxiety, with more than a third encountering it multiple times a week. Notably, this anxiety is more prevalent among Gen Z employees. For 68% of them, meeting deadlines is the primary indicator of a successful workday, while nearly half view making mistakes as the hallmark of a bad day.


Why is productivity anxiety so common?


1. The role of hustle culture

A significant driver behind productivity anxiety is the 'hustle culture.' This culture promotes the idea that there’s always more to be done and equates busyness with success. As a result, our sense of self-worth often becomes tied to how productive we are, increasing the likelihood of experiencing anxiety about our productivity levels.


2. Childhood influences

Our upbringing also plays a crucial role. According to counsellor Georgina Sturmer, the values we internalised from childhood can influence our behaviour in the workplace. If we were raised in an environment where productivity was highly valued, we’re more likely to exhibit these behaviours as adults.


3. Technological advances

The constant connectivity facilitated by smartphones and other digital devices means we are always accessible for work-related communications. This blurs the boundaries between work and personal time, contributing to a perpetual state of busyness and anxiety.


4. Economic pressures

In today’s competitive job market, the fear of job loss or the need to prove oneself can drive individuals to work excessively. The pressure to achieve and maintain job security can fuel productivity anxiety.


5. Social media influence

Social media often portrays an idealised version of success, where people showcase their achievements and productivity. This can create unrealistic expectations and lead to feelings of inadequacy and anxiety when comparing oneself to others.



Managing productivity anxiety


The good news is that there are several effective strategies to manage and reduce productivity anxiety. Here are our top tips:


  • Set realistic goals with an outcome mindset that ladders up to business goals

  • Create personal boundaries around your work and stick to them. It may mean signing off at a regular time or setting expectations around your communication preferences

  • Schedule rest into your day. This can look like short breaks throughout the day or a long lunch, whatever helps you recover. You must keep to that schedule the same way you attend meetings  

  • Manage your energy, not your time. Assess your energy levels and understand what helps you refresh throughout your day. It might be a snack, a walk or even a nap. Taking a step away to refresh often results in better work when you return

  • Have frequent check-ins to problem-solve, course-correct and innovate throughout the work

  • Clear your mind and look after your body. Eat and sleep well, and make room to meditate, journal or engage in any other activity that lets you declutter your headspace

  • Do self-assessments and reflections with your manager to capture and reflect on skills, capabilities and progress


Productivity anxiety is a common issue, particularly in today’s fast-paced work environment. However, by recognising its signs and implementing strategies to manage it, you can maintain your wellbeing while staying productive. Remember, true success isn’t just about how much you do, but how well you take care of yourself along the way.

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