Productivity Rituals, Workaholism, and Corporate Religion

Reading the buzzed about NYTimes piece In Silicon Valley, Working 9 to 5 Is for Losers – The New York Times, the argument is clear: there is a new kind of camouflaged workaholism in our American/California culture, and likely beyond.

It’s dressed up as Lifehacking, Hustle, and — even as we’ve seen in our workshops and classes — Productivity obsession.

We have done work on creating rituals for productivity, and we see how people are trying to change their own behavior and everyday life to become more effective. Often, though, this crosses over into trying to maximize their time, emotions, and dedication to their work. Rituals become another lever to make the superhuman entrepreneur or worker, to get the most success in business, and make this individual as successful as possible.

That’s not to say that we are anti-productivity, just that we’re concerned that we’re shoehorning meaning, culture, and connection (the big values we see in ritual design) into a tool to “get more work done”, without thinking about what this means systematically. Do we want to be celebrating total dedication to work and inhuman feats of productivity? And do we want to be instrumentalizing ritual to support corporate leaders’ trying to convince their own employees to put work before all else — or even more weirdly, people’s attempt to do this to themselves?

There’s something here: how we derive value, community, and identity from our work and not our religion. And how individual success in creating businesses and profit is our self-metric, that we have internalized business outcomes as our life’s goals. We think rituals can bring meaning into our lives, but they can also be co-opted for hustle, lifehacking, and corporate religion.

Ritual Co-Design and Transitions

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