How to Prevent Ttoxic Productivity and Burnout?

Anna Majowska
5 min readMay 22, 2023


Office colleagues appearing tense during a conversation

In the present fast-paced work culture, the pressure to be effective can sometimes result in toxic productivity, causing detrimental effects on both individuals and teams. Toxic productivity is an unhealthy drive to constantly work and achieve, often at the expense of physical and mental well-being. Let’s shed some light on the causes and manifestations of toxic productivity, consider how to notice it, and — most importantly — prevent it. Furthermore, we will explore the role of a supportive team environment in managing productivity expectations and the related avoidance of employee burnout.

What is toxic productivity?

Unhealthy productivity is usually the result of societal expectations, internal pressures, or workplace culture. It manifests as a ceaseless need to be productive regardless of the cost. People caught in a toxic productivity cycle often neglect their well-being, sacrifice personal life and relationships, or at least blur the boundaries between work and personal life.

Software engineer working late at his desk

How to spot toxic productivity?

It’s hard to recognize one’s productivity as toxic, as it often masquerades as dedication, professionalism, or high performance. But some objective signs and symptoms include chronic exhaustion, neglecting self-care, constantly working overtime and the inability to switch off at home, feeling guilt when taking breaks, or a relentless pursuit of perfectionism. Also, the sense of having burned out, experiencing the impostor syndrome, or one’s self-worth becoming solely tied to one’s job productivity can be red flags.

As a team member — how can you prevent toxic productivity?

  • Cultivate self-awareness:
    Recognize your limitations, set realistic goals, and prioritize self-care. Understand that productivity is not synonymous with self-worth.
  • Set boundaries:
    Establish clear boundaries between your work and personal lives. Define specific working hours, avoid checking emails outside those hours, and allocate time for care and relaxation, hobbies, and spending time with friends and family.
  • Embrace breaks:
    Take regular breaks throughout the day to recharge and stay connected to yourself. Paradoxically, stepping away from work, even for a few minutes, can enhance productivity and prevent burnout! Consider setting aside an hour a day just for chilling out without any digital distractions. It can go a long way for your health and ability to focus throughout the day.
  • Plan work and set realistic goals:
    Focus on the most meaningful and impactful tasks rather than trying to tackle everything all at once. Delegate when necessary, practice effective time management, and avoid multi-tasking. Consider setting up a Kanban board for better planning. Don’t make your plans vague and unrealistic — make them achievable and measurable. Also, split each of your goals into small steps.
  • Foster good communication:
    Encourage open dialogue within the team, where individuals feel comfortable expressing their concerns or struggles. It promotes a supportive environment where everyone’s well-being is valued and where its connection to being able to work well is appreciated.
  • Don’t be afraid to take radical action:
    If your company does not make it possible to take breaks and go home on time, it’s probably not the best company you could work for. Make a change, put yourself first, and do not hesitate to seek mental health specialist advice when needed.
A woman meditating and practicing good self-care

As an employer — how can you prevent toxic productivity?

An element essential for combating toxic productivity and burnout, to which it often leads, is creating a supportive team environment. By fostering a culture that prioritizes well-being and a healthy work-life balance, organizations can unlock their teams’ true potential and enhance overall productivity while retaining the ethos of respectful, healthy teamwork. How to achieve it?

  • Flexible schedules:
    Offer flexible work arrangements, such as remote work or flexible hours, to accommodate individual needs, circumstances, and responsibilities. It empowers employees to manage their time effectively and reduces the stress of rigid schedules.
  • Work-life balance:
    Encourage a healthy work-life balance by discouraging excessive overtime and promoting time off. Encouraging employees to pursue their passions and interests outside work helps prevent burnout and encourages creativity.
  • Mental health support:
    Provide resources and support for mental health, such as access to counseling services or workshops on stress management and resilience. Normalize discussions around mental health to help reduce stigma and create a safe space for seeking help.
  • Team empathy:
    Encourage true collaboration — not cross-delegation masked as teamwork, and foster a sense of community within the team. Encourage team members to support and help one another, feeding a culture of empathy and understanding.
  • Recognize achievements and contributions:
    Acknowledge and appreciate the efforts and achievements of team members. Regular recognition, celebration, and feedback loops can boost morale and motivation, enhancing productivity and preventing burnout.
Colleagues appear happy working alongside one another


Toxic productivity can have severe consequences on individuals, teams, and companies. By recognizing the signs of it, we can prevent unhealthy productivity and maintain our sanity. Furthermore, a supportive team environment is vital in combating burnout and toxic productivity. By implementing human-centric strategies, companies can create a culture that values well-being and fosters productivity. Ultimately, the journey from burnout to breakthrough begins with clear boundaries, self-awareness, open communication, and a commitment to creating a supportive team environment. By fostering a healthy work culture, organizations can unlock their teams’ potential, leading to improved efficiency, increased job satisfaction among the team, and a positive, thriving work environment.

The post was first published on the Kanban Tool Blog.