Productivity Theater

What is productivity theater?

Actions workers take to fake effort and productivity

Productivity theater is any behavior that workers engage in to embellish or fake their productivity, availability, and time at work. For example, a worker who largely quits working at 2 pm, but logs on to their computer at 5 pm to answer emails (thus suggesting they've been working all day) is engaging in productivity theater.

The notion of productivity theater resurged in the public consciousness during the covid pandemic, when many workers shifted to working from home. Some of these WFH workers devised productivity theater tactics that made it look like they were working just as hard or harder than they did in the office, whether that was true or not. (For some workers, productivity theater was a tactic used to slack off. For others, it was a tactic used to reinforce that, yes, they actually were working just as hard.)

However, productivity theater is not a new phenomenon. In-office workers have and still can engage in productivity theater, often just as or even more effectively as their WFH colleagues.


I know for a fact that those messages Danica sent over Christmas were productivity theater. She wants that promotion, but it's mine! Mine I tell you!

A man who has mastered productivity theater

Related Slang


Updated April 28, 2023

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