Key tips for avoiding the trap of ‘toxic productivity’ in PR

by | May 18, 2023 | Public Relations

Toxic productivity? How can productivity be toxic at all? Tons of books and training programs teach us to be productive if we want to become successful PR specialists! How can it be harmful?

Yes, it can.

Toxic productivity happens when you start thinking of work at the expense of everything else: family, friends, sports, leisure, hobbies, and health. Let’s face it: It’s silly to work hard to make more money and then spend it on doctors and medicine. And that is far from the only danger of toxic productivity.

In this article, we’ll reveal the nature of toxic productivity, its signs, and the reasons why it appears, and learn steps to avoid its traps when working in the PR niche.

Key tips for avoiding the trap of ‘toxic productivity’ in PR

What is toxic productivity?

Toxic productivity is about work, even the most efficient one, to the detriment of a worker’s physical and mental health, well-being, and other aspects of life unrelated to work.

It’s not about work itself but our attitude toward it. It is equally wrong to ignore your PR duties as it is to think about them fanatically and around the clock.

Toxic productivity is not about planning your next day in the evening or spending 15-20 minutes on Sundays to craft a to-do list for the next working week. It’s okay and consistent with all the recommendations we get from time management experts.


You won’t find any time management guide saying you should spend all day thinking about work duties. More than that, time management literature tells you to plan breaks and leisure time first because only a refreshed and well-slept person can be efficient and productive.

The top 5 signs of toxic productivity

Toxic productivity is about constant overwork, the long-term absence of weekends or vacations, and endless and hard-to-attain plans a person wants to implement right here and now, thinking they would be even better to implement and complete yesterday.

The red flag is your constant self-blaming for undone things, including those unimportant or unrelated to your direct duties and responsibilities:

It’s one thing when a “force majeure” happens, and you stay late to finish the PR project due tomorrow. And it’s quite another thing when you work to the point of exhaustion simply because “we have to work” and can’t clearly say when it will be over.

The latter one is about toxic productivity.

The red flag is your excuses like, “It will be over when I earn enough money.” Or when you pay off the loan and buy a house. Or when kids grow up and go to college. (You name it!)

The thing is that kids, loans, shopping, and houses are all components of our lives. We should try to live it to the fullest rather than fill it with work from morning till night, postponing it for later. That is why a work-life balance matters:

You can combine work with parenting, household chores, and communication with friends while finding money for all the necessary purchases.

So, here are the top five signs of toxic productivity from psychologists and recruiting specialists:

  1. You spend after-work hours and weekends working from home, which has already become the norm rather than a one-time case (an annual report, a presentation, a teambuilding party, etc.).
  2. You constantly think about work: What else do you need to do, revise, suggest, etc.?
  3. You have a permanent feeling of fatigue and exhaustion.
  4. You feel guilty if you think you could have done more but didn’t.
  5. You experience discomfort and guilt when you allow yourself to have some rest.

Some experts also highlight the tendency to set unrealistic goals, regardless of objective circumstances.

There’s nothing wrong with the advice to move forward and overcome challenges. It is just a matter of understanding the situation and seeing what is within your competence and what is not.

Key tips for avoiding the trap of ‘toxic productivity’ in PR

The top 5 psychological signs you’re a toxic productivity victim

There are many more signs of toxic productivity. Thus, some researchers focus more on psychological aspects and consider them central to determining when productivity becomes toxic.

Below are five psychological signs you’ve become a toxic productivity victim:

  1. You get upset and frustrated if you don’t have time to complete the whole project at once.
  2. You get angry when colleagues work slower than you and aren’t as enthusiastic about their duties as you are.
  3. You always give up weekend plans in favor of work.
  4. You consider self-sacrifice and perfectionism must-haves for successful PR results.
  5. You believe passive relaxation is a waste of time.

Such a psychological approach takes place: Many things in this life depend not so much on objective reality as our attitude toward it.

As long as you are comfortable working hard, immersing yourself in a new PR project, building a new business, and forgetting about time and everything else because the work at the moment generates more interest than anything else, it is up to you.


If you begin to believe that everyone should do exactly the same, forgetting to rest and favoring yet another personal growth training session over communication with loved ones or going to the theater, it’s a problem.

You risk going from toxic productivity to a toxic personality.

How not to become a victim of toxic productivity, who, besides problems with family, relationships, free time, and health, may also have self-esteem troubles because others do not share their views?

How do you avoid the trap of toxic productivity?

Therapists identify the following aftermath of toxic productivity: anxiety, constant dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, difficulties in interpersonal communication, and, in the short term, health problems, emotional and professional burnout, and… lower productivity!

What can you do to prevent that?

If you are among those having to work a lot just because your employer considers it a must for you to get a salary:

Discuss the situation with a manager responsible for your proactivity and work efficiency. Do they want to control your every step or to see results?

Argee on the task details and realistic, attainable deadlines beforehand. In 2023, it’s time to develop clear performance criteria for employees and let them work for the result, not time spent “working.”

If you are among those trapped in “hustle culture” and inspired by Elon Musk’s “nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week:”

Here are your six steps to get rid of toxic productivity:

  1. Stop sacrificing basic needs (sleep, rest, food) in the name of unnecessary work. Working late into the night or during your lunch break may be the exception but not the rule.
  2. Take breaks from work. “Add” 10-15 minutes to the time you have for each task, and think about how this will increase your productivity.
  3. Stop comparing your PR success to others, real or imagined. First, people tend to lie and exaggerate their accomplishments. Second, even if someone has achieved more, you can be happy for them instead of trying to compete.
  4. Go for sports and remember it doesn’t take time away from work. Sport gives it because a physically fit and resilient person can get more things done.
  5. Avoid excessive self-development. Don’t visit fancy training just because “everyone goes there,” and don’t read something just because “everyone reads it.” Some books are not worth wasting your time on.
  6. Understand your professional value with all your knowledge, skills, experience, and background.

When you think you are worthless or good for nothing but working to exhaustion, it can be because you are in the wrong place. Look into the job market for your specialty, and maybe your qualifications pay much better elsewhere.

Find a reasonable work-life balance and care for your physical and mental health.

Lesley Vos
Lesley Vos is a text author, blogging at edu websites and specializing in content creation and self-criticism. In love with words, coffee, and foxes. In the hope of mastering the art of proofreading before she hits "send." Twitter | Portfolio


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