September 26, 2020


In a world where nearly everyone is always online, there is no offline.

the productivity trap

The Productivity Trap cartoon

A recent survey from Blind found that 83% of marketing and communications professionals are reporting burnout, the highest of any job function.

There are likely many factors at play, but I wonder how much of this burnout relates to productivity anxiety, the pressure to be busy, and the hustle culture in business.  

The pursuit of constant productivity can actually be unproductive. As Stanford researcher, Emma Seppala, put it, “our culture is obsessed with productivity. But research shows that attempting to triumph over an ever-expanding to-do list actually works against us.”

Since the pandemic started, our work days have increased by an average of 48 minutes, according to The National Bureau of Economic Research.  Bluescape found that 77% of employees say establishing boundaries between work and personal life is the most important work skill.

Intel recently tried to address burnout by helping employees disconnect from work.  In the US, overall vacation requests have dropped by almost half, driven largely by limited places to go.  Intel’s VP of HR, Julie Ann Overcash, introduced a “Staycation Challenge,” a creative contest that encouraged people to take time off and recharge.  Intel granted additional floating holidays and awarded prizes to help employees bring to life their staycation ideas.

When I worked at Method years ago, co-founder Eric Ryan used to say that “the HR Director is the new Marketing Director.”  He was referring to the importance of organizational culture in a brand.  Marketing flows from the inside out.  A healthy work culture is ultimately tied to a healthy brand and a healthy business.

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Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years:

More with Less” February 2015 (license this cartoon)

Digital Transformation” April 2020 (license this cartoon)

Digital Transformation cartoon

The New Normal” May 2020 (license this cartoon)

The New Normal cartoon

Marketoonist | Tom Fishburne