Humane Productivity with Rahaf Harfoush

Rahaf Harfoush

Rahaf and I discuss hustle culture and why it is so harmful. We focus on the underlying belief systems of the “people” working in this culture because this isn’t a new phenomenon – we were burning out before the pandemic, but COVID brought a rush to digitise and increased this ‘scope creep’ of “doing more with less”, and presenteeism became digital (overload).

We also discuss the big disconnect between what leaders want and what employees want, and how we can reprogram ourselves and reclaim intentional recovery as part of high performance. Neuroscience proves that our brains are not wired for permanent high cognitive/knowledge work and have a limited amount of time in ‘flow’. 

We now have powerful data to highlight opportunities for change and companies must look at their culture and ways of working, and how they use technology to enable a more human experience.  

Rahaf shares her insights, experience and research from working with leaders and businesses around the globe.

The main insights you’ll get from this episode are :

  •  Hustle culture: a set of beliefs/behaviours developed to prioritise being busy, glorifying and celebrating the process/effort of working hard rather than the end goal or result. 
  • Invisible – historical – forces stem from non-stop productivity due to the industrial revolution and its modern incarnation of the ‘American dream’ ideology.
  • We do not look at effectiveness/efficiency; our systems seek solutions, but system users must ask fundamental questions; our expectations are flawed, and we try to ‘fix’ the system. 
  • The pandemic brought a rush to digitise and presenteeism became digital (overload); it amplified everything and highlighted different company cultures – companies that didn’t trust their employees used tech to control their staff instead of giving them flexibility.
  • There is a resistance to moving away from hustle culture; we operate around assumptions of what success is and our internal operating systems are based on what we have been told. 
  • Our individual programming varies but we don’t stop to examine the narratives and can therefore inadvertently harm ourselves – we must make intentional choices and understand our own stories and beliefs surrounding success.
  • To set ourselves up for success we must recharge and reset; we are addicted to our devices and live in a culture where everything is urgent and we must be constantly responsive. 
  • Teams should agree digital norms to provide safety and security; clarity reduces the need to be constantly connected and we put in place collective boundaries and commitment.
  • Hybrid working models require these norms to ensure happy teams; communication is essential to understand peoples’ preferences to improve morale and performance and use tech to make the right decisions for people and create a more inclusive workplace.
  • We must reprogram ourselves and reclaim intentional recovery as part of high performance; companies must look at policies and the use of technology. 
  • Neuroscience proves that our brains are not wired for permanent high cognitive/knowledge work and have a limited amount of time in ‘flow’. The high-performance cycle consists of ramp up, flow, ramp down, intentional recovery.
  • The four stages of the cycle are the same for everybody but the times in each stage vary so that working days should ideally be structured differently for different individuals.
  • National cultures determine work stories and these in turn affect our brains; executive functions diminish if we rely on fight or flight and compromised human functional capacities lead to burnout.
  • The polarity of the pandemic was that we needed to connect but couldn’t – now we need time to regulate our nervous systems and listen to the signals our bodies are sending us to avoid long-term damage such as inflammation, heart attacks and anxiety.
  • Productivity is not the point; surely it should be to live an enjoyable and meaningful life and make consistent progress on important things; as multi-hyphenates, we have a responsibility to put the right things in place and learn about ourselves. 
  • Post-pandemic there is powerful data for change, such as a more productive 4-day week. We should aim to live our best lives and deliberately choose our beliefs.

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Suzie Lewis

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