Productivity is one of the most important yet misunderstood aspects of running a business. In today’s society, employees feel pressured to work long hours, compete with each other, and perform at their limits. But this approach does more harm than good. As business coach Simone Milasas told HuffPost, toxic productivity affects employee morale and mental well-being, creating unnecessary stress and leading to burnout followed by feelings of guilt.

Remote work doesn’t make things any easier. Nearly 70% of remote employees work on weekends, and 45% are spending more time logged in during the week than they did before the pandemic. As a manager or business owner, it’s your responsibility to address these issues and take the steps needed to prevent employee burnout.

As with most things, more isn’t always better. After all, there’s a reason companies worldwide are experimenting with shorter workweeks—and getting great results, such as lower overhead costs and improved employee well-being.

With that being said, let’s take a closer look at five toxic productivity myths to leave behind in 2022.

Early Risers Are More Productive

Many employers, including those who allow remote work, expect their staff to get up early. The general belief is that morning people are more productive and successful than late sleepers. As it turns out, this is just another myth.

Roughly one in four people is biologically programmed to wake up early, says BBC Worklife. In fact, about half of the population isn’t morning- or evening-oriented, but a combination of the two. While it’s true that early risers tend to be happier and more organized, night owls are often more creative and open to new experiences. They also tend to perform better on memory tests and have superior cognitive skills.

Your ability to wake up early depends on your body’s internal clock, or chronotype. Genetics play a role, too. If you’re naturally inclined to wake up earlier, it doesn’t make sense to change your routine. It all comes down to how you manage your time.

We all have the same 24 hours in a day. You could wake up at 10 AM, work until 6 PM, and get just as much done as those who wake up at the crack of dawn. Or you could try to get up early and struggle to stay awake instead of working.

However, there are times when you must get up early to attend a meeting, finish a project, or travel for work. In such cases, your best bet is to start the day with a cup of coffee and plan things out ahead of time. A quick morning workout may help, too.

Caffeine, the active compound in coffee, can offset the effects of sleep loss on physical and cognitive function. Moreover, it’s clinically proven to improve reaction time, alertness, memory, and attention.

 Morning exercise has similar benefits, reports the University of Georgia. This simple habit promotes wakefulness and can enhance mental focus, creativity, and concentration while reducing stress.

Plan Every Minute of Your Workday

In this competitive era, employees are told to plan and maximize every minute of their workday. Unfortunately, this habit can backfire and lead to diminished productivity.

First of all, most people need a few hours to reach peak productivity at work.

Second, their ability to focus is largely determined by their circadian rhythms, notes Harvard Business Review (HBR).

Third, the average person has two productivity peaks in a day—one in the early noon and one in the early evening. External factors, such as daily stress, sleep deprivation, and personal problems, can further affect mental focus.

Given these aspects, you can’t expect your employees to be productive at all times. HBR recommends considering the factors listed above when assigning tasks and setting deadlines.

For example, you may ask your team members to complete their most important tasks around noon and before 6 PM. Encourage them to spend their least productive hours taking a nap, listening to music, or working on less demanding tasks so they can be more alert and focused later on.

productivity myths
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Multitasking Is the Key to Higher Productivity

Employees are often expected to do a little bit of everything: answer phone calls, fill out paperwork, write proposals, and so on—all while doing their regular jobs. The ability to multitask is highly regarded by employers and can make or break your chances of getting hired. Some say that managing multiple responsibilities at once can lead to higher productivity and cost savings.

While it’s true that multitasking allows you to get more done in less time, it can actually hurt productivity in the long run.

Switching back and forth between tasks increases the risk of human error and affects mental focus, explains McGraw Hill. For example, you may end up forgetting or omitting essential details.

Over time, this practice can also alter brain function and reduce productivity by up to 40%, impairing cognition that can ultimately affect IQ, according to Forbes. Multitasking also raises stress levels and lowers your motivation, making it harder to feel satisfied with your work.

For best results, focus on one thing at a time instead of trying to do everything at once. This way, you’ll not only enjoy your work more but also achieve better outcomes and avoid costly mistakes. Plus, you may find it easier to stay focused and maintain your creative flow.

Success Takes Hard Work

Most of us have been told “Work hard and you’ll succeed” our entire lives. We grow up believing that we must work long hours to build a career, rise through the ranks, or turn our passion into a business. Naturally, companies ask their employees to stay overtime and push past their limits to achieve peak performance.

Lately, more and more employers are shifting their mindset from relying on hard work to encouraging smart work. The thing is, success and productivity have little to do with the number of hours you clock in. Hard work alone is simply not enough to help you reach your full potential and career goals. You also need grit, determination, business acumen, and a little bit of luck.

If, say, you start a business or side hustle, you may think that you must work long hours to make it through.

You’re ready to give up your personal life, tighten your belt, and sacrifice your weekends to achieve success. But there are plenty of ways to earn extra income and jump-start your business without doing these things. For example, you could rent out your space, sell photos online, or provide consulting services in your spare time.

The bottom line is, you don’t have to sacrifice everything to reach your goals. Likewise, hard work doesn’t necessarily equal higher productivity. It’s how you spend your time and energy that matters most.

Employees Thrive under Pressure

One of the most widely spread productivity myths says that employees thrive under pressure. As you would expect, this approach goes hand in hand with the concept of hard work.

 Pressure motivates people to get things done and stop procrastinating, but it also increases stress. In the long run, it hinders productivity and creates a toxic work environment, psychologist and executive coach Hendrie Weisinger told Inc.

Back in 2012, Harvard Business School analyzed the impact of performance pressure on team morale. Scientists found that employees who felt pressured at work focused on “surviving” rather than achieving their full potential. Most subjects engaged in “groupthink” rather than using their individual skills and knowledge and made the “safest” choice instead of thinking outside the box.

The takeaway is that performance pressure doesn’t drive productivity or success — it actually has the opposite effect. If you want your employees to stay productive, try to create a positive work culture where they feel valued and understood. Encourage them to take time off as needed, stop micromanaging them, and acknowledge their efforts.