The Pitfalls of Hustle Culture at the Workplace

The Pitfalls of Hustle Culture at the Workplace

Overworking isn’t as glamorous as social media makes it seem; it can have debilitating effects on your mental and physical health.

“Work hard, play hard.” Most of us have heard this phrase at some point. A simplified version of today’s hustle culture looks like this: you work every day, hoping to set yourself up for success. Often, people focus so much on the first half of this equation that they never have time to “play hard”.

Hustle culture usually leaves people feeling burnt out, which is antithetical to workplace productivity. Thus, we need to break free from the toxicity of the hustle mindset. To do so, let’s look at what hustle culture is, where it comes from and why it is toxic for the workplace. 

An overview of hustle culture

Hustle culture, or grind culture, promotes putting work above everything else. For some people, it means giving their office job the maximum amount of time and energy to get a six-figure salary or move up the corporate ladder. For others, it would be starting a side business to earn a passive income. Under this culture, anyone who isn’t working all the time is considered lazy

Within this hustle culture or “grindset” (constantly focusing on improving your social and financial life), people are expected more than just to work hard. They also have to love putting in the extra effort at work, so much so that they promote it on social media. The over four million posts under the #hustle on Instagram are a testament to the sheer extent to which we are being fed with the culture of overworking on a day-to-day basis. 

Where does hustle culture come from?

The word was first used in the context of work in African American society. In 1914, the Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper, called delivering the paper easy for “any wide-awake boy with a little hustle in him”. 

The word was quickly assimilated into mainstream language when black rappers began mentioning hustling in their music in the early 2000s. The push to hustle and work hard became even more prominent during the global recession in 2008. Young people began to feel like they had to work extra hard to survive the harsh economic conditions. The pandemic has had a similar effect on the popularity of hustle culture. The precarious conditions of 2020 pressured people to be productive and make the most of their time without acknowledging they needed time to recover mentally from the effects of a global health crisis. 

The consequences of hustle culture

For employees

Decreasing individual productivity

Too much pressure doesn’t lead us anywhere good in all contexts, and that we have to hustle all the time is the culprit of burnout. According to research conducted by Stanford University, an individual’s productivity decreases sharply if they are made to work more than eight hours a day. After some point, productivity may even go into the negative. 

Adversely affecting your physical and mental health

Those with the hustle mindset would take on more and more tasks thinking that it would make them look like a productive employee. Yet, in the long run, this will deteriorate your body, leading to health problems, like type II Diabetes, obesity and hypertension. Besides, it can also adversely affect your mental health, giving you chronic stress, depression and anxiety. All this is to say that any money you would make through years of hustle would then go into fixing its negative impact on your body and mind. 

Leading to unhealthy competition

Another major pitfall of the hustle mindset is that it leads to unhealthy competition in the workplace. Most tasks in a standard workplace require some level of collaboration. If everyone at the office thinks that the only way to get promoted or get a raise is to hustle harder than the rest, it will lead to unhealthy and fierce competition. By constantly hustling harder and harder, you are creating a space that breeds overexertion instead of promoting a healthy work-life balance. 

For employers

Hustle culture might seem like it is meeting the ends of the employer, keeping the employees motivated to do more constantly. Nonetheless, the unhealthy competition stemming from hustle culture isn’t a good thing. If people always compete with one another, they might focus more on what they can accomplish and less on the organization’s collective goals. Such a work culture will hamper the overall productivity of the workplace. 

Besides, while some employees might give in to the hustle culture, others might just decide to leave. Many companies today are attracting employees with the promise of flexible hours and a healthy work culture. If your company doesn’t offer any of this, you will lose out on some of your most talented employees. 

Today, a lot of people are losing faith in the promise of hustle culture. Tying your self-worth to your productivity can be dehumanizing, and perhaps this realization was what led to four and a half million people in the U.S. quitting their jobs in November 2021. While there are over 16 million posts under #Ilovemyjob on Instagram, no one loves their job all the time. We all have a certain threshold of how much work we can put out and need to work within said limits to get the best outcomes. 

Ultimately, companies need to focus on creating an environment where employees feel comfortable unplugging and relaxing from time to time. Only so will they come back to their work with greater vigor and enthusiasm. 

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Header image courtesy of Freepik

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