Productivity x Overwork: A fine line in times of remote work

4 min read
Aug 5, 2022 11:10:17 AM

In early 2020, the pandemic pushed most companies to start the remote working model, so their staff could continue working safely.

Two years have passed, we have become used to (and some people even prefer) working remotely, but it is necessary to discuss some consequences of working from home, such as the risk of starting to "live at work".

The beginning

The first week working from home was a big adjustment, we were learning how to deal with online meetings, message communication, adapting to the routine, organizing, among other things. 

And suddenly everyone started feeling more and more like a productive person, after all, you hadn't spent an hour or more in public transport or driving to your workplace, at most you had moved from bed to chair.

So that mood was completely reflected at work: more energy and less stress. Along with this came the relief of knowing that by the end of the workday you would be home, so it was okay to stay "one more hour" to finish that task, right?

And these decisions ended up reflecting what a large part of the population that works remotely lives today!

What is productivity?

In the current concept, productivity is the production capacity / time for some result. Therefore, a productive person is one who produces in less time! 

Optimize their work, but maintain the quality and practicality in their actions and final results. It is the one who generates more results with less effort.

What is overwork?

Overwork is much more than just exceeding the weekly hours agreed upon in a contract. It is working continuously, with very high demands and few breaks.

This excess (or as I like to call it: "toxic productivity") ends up creating a giant wear on the physical and mental health of the employees. Problems such as anxiety, stress, and burnout are directly linked to overwork.

A survey by ISMA-B (International Stress Management Association of Brazil), revealed that 30% of Brazilians began to suffer from burnout during the pandemic, just when remote work had its boom.

A fine line

Productivity and overwork don't walk side by side, quite the contrary: overwork can take away your concentration, mood, and production capacity, delaying your deliveries even further. 

Therefore, it is necessary to be extra careful, because the line between these two extremes is very thin.

1 -Working hard is not synonymous with being a productive person

I know, this information may be shocking and disruptive, but being overworked is not the same as being a productive person. Think about it with me: if productivity is production capacity x time, a productive day should not require overtime, right?

A productive day is one where we complete our demands efficiently, without necessarily having to stay 2,3, or even 6 hours longer, leading the body to exhaustion.

2 - No, you are not multitasking - and multitasking is not productivity

Contrary to popular belief, multitasking is not synonymous with productivity. Our mind can only fully focus on one demand at a time, and that's not me saying this, it's your brain!

There is no point in wanting to do more than one task at the same time, it just gets in the way of your focus and instead of paying attention to the details of each task individually, you pay superficial attention to all of them at the same time. Be careful not to fall into the con trick!

3 - Overwork delays deliveries

Working long hours and still not being able to complete all the tasks gives us the idea that it is not possible to complete our duties. Consequently, this affects our mind, which becomes tired and overloaded.

The result? Late deliveries and increasing stress.

Better safe than sorry

That old saying is more than right, you can believe that preventing overwork is much better than dealing with its consequences.

Here's a short list of how to combine productivity with a healthy work routine:

  • Practice self-knowledge: nothing better than knowing your limits and behavior patterns, so it is much easier to develop skills and new competencies;

  • Plan your day: organization and planning help you to be aware of your duties and to manage your available time;

  • Define priorities: Find out which tasks are more difficult or important and organize according to what should be delivered first;
  • Focus on one demand at a time: do one task at a time, and realize that by focusing only on it the chances of overloading your mind are much smaller;
  • Ask for help whenever necessary: you don't have to know and afford everything, ask your team or managers for help;
  • Say "no" more often: it is essential to know how to deny demands sometimes, only you know whether or not you have time to take on a new project;
  • Have activities outside of work: it can be a sport or quality time with friends, the important thing is to have moments of fun and enjoyment to maintain happiness and quality of life;
  • Take care of yourself: both physical and mental health, seek professional help at the slightest sign that something is not right.

White man with beard and red cap stretching and huddling in front of a laptop computer

Having said all that, we must remember that the remote working model is not the big villain of this story!

It is common to make this confusion between productivity and overwork, after all, we always want to deliver our demands and make ourselves stand out in the company, but it is important to get out of this inertia that the remote model helps us enter more easily and get back to having a healthy relationship with our work.

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