By: Lauren Perrodin

When you think of the work environments leading up to the 2010s, the phrases “rise and grind,” or “no days off” may come to mind as well as “maximize productivity.” These phrases became the outline of what we know as hustle culture, the idealism that hard work and long hours are necessary to achieve success.

Corporations have long put intense expectations on their employees to maximize productivity; encouraging workers to show they deserve a promotion, a raise or even to hold their position if they set aside their rest, self-care and work-life balance for the company.

How did this concept become the norm, and where are we now? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Hustle Culture in the 21st Century

With hard work and determination, you can reach your full potential — this is what America was built on, and is the foundation of the American Dream. Generations leading up to Generation Z leaned into this idealism, but, according to The HR Digest, it seems to be coming to an end with the newest working generation.

Work-life balance isn’t a new concept and had to be cultivated over decades of employer-employee negotiations. It’s where unions began, time off, the eight-hour work day and benefits developed. And with each new generation, this concept is growing to prioritize not only profits, but the whole person as well — bringing to light the possibility of maximizing productivity and profits, while also supporting a person’s needs outside of work.

Forbes Business Council member and CEO and co-founder of the financial wellness app Relief, Jason Saltzman, says that hustle culture is “a mindset that emphasizes working hard and constantly striving for success… All this often comes at the expense of one’s personal well-being.”

Why Hustle Culture Became the Norm

Generations leading up to Gen Z learned from their parents that with hard work, you would reach your career goals, break the glass ceiling, and reach financial independence.

The picture of success looked like the stories of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, people of power and high status who threw away their social life, and focused all of their attention on developing what are now multi-billion-dollar enterprises. With these stories came with them the belief that the average person could also achieve such success if they did the same.

Millennials came of age living through two recessions and multiple national and international disasters, still believing that they could somehow hack their way to a prosperous life. Mission-driven and armed with Bulletproof coffee and green juice, they were going to make it work.

Soon, working long hours and becoming “Team No Sleep” can begin to weigh on the bodies and minds of these individuals. But how did these young workers snap out of the mindset?

What has changed?

Along with Gen Z entering the workforce, the COVID-19 pandemic forced nearly the entire world to stop what they were doing. It gave people the space to consider what they wanted out of work and life. Megan Carnegie of BBC News says that “economic uncertainty and greater awareness of inequality can make both the ideas and language of the rise-and-grind mentality feel outdated and out of touch.”

Remote work became more popular, but you may notice that “work hard, play harder” phrases that littered job descriptions in the early 2010s have dissolved as well. Work location flexibility empowered employees to explore their priorities such as spending more time with family, creating quiet time or traveling and becoming more of a digital nomad. It allows workers the freedom to choose the environment that gives them the best work-life balance that meets their needs.

Why Hustle Culture is Counterproductive

Jason Saltzman from Forbes also highlights that hustle culture isn’t as helpful or proactive toward one’s career dreams as once believed. Adding side projects to your full-time work schedule, focusing your outputs rather than what you’re getting out of life and prioritizing profit over people can hurt more than it helps your future.

Working day in and day out can actually distract you from your primary career because all of the stress can result in burnout and physical and mental exhaustion according to Talk Space. The mental health organization notes that the negative impact of hustle culture can develop into:

  • Anxiety: An all-or-nothing mentality can lead to stress and anxiety when professionals are not met, deadlines are missed and performance falls short.
  • Apathetic attitude: Constantly pushing yourself to do more and better than the day before can lead to never feeling good enough.
  • Guilt: If or when you do take a day off, you may feel bad or lazy for not making it a productive day anyway.
  • High risk of illness or disease: Studies have shown that working 55 hours a week or more and other factors could lead to cardiovascular diseases and other health issues.

Methods to Help You Get By

As much as it would be ideal to drop hustle culture off and never look back, today’s inflation and income disparity may require some individuals to take on two or more jobs to get by. So, how do you balance income and mental health?

Start Investing

The dream is to become financially independent and eliminate your debts. GoBankingRates advises that investing, setting up a high-yield savings account and budgeting can help you get there more quickly than relying on work income alone. They remind readers that hustle culture doesn’t have to be the only solution to building wealth.

Structure a Healthy Work-Life Balance

Paid time off (PTO) is there for a reason! When you feel your mental health decline, and that you’re as excited to get to work as you used to be, these should be signs that you need to cash in on your PTO days.

Healthy boundaries are an important part of maintaining strong mental health — and relationships. Put your out-of-office status up on your PTO days, turn off email notifications and truly recharge. Self-care should always come first, so make sure your day off includes an activity that truly honors your needs like reading a book, taking a long walk, practicing yoga, etc.

When you get back to work, be sure to take breaks throughout your day to step away from your desk and do something that brings you joy. You may come to realize that when you get back to work, you’re able to focus more than you did prior to the break.

Final Thoughts

You don’t have to quit your job and join the circus to find true happiness and a comfortable work-life balance! Taking conscious steps to realize when you’re feeling unmotivated, exhausted and mentally tapped out of the job you love can take you much further in your career. The change in tide for hustle culture can benefit you far into the future and far more than you realize, lean into it and reap the rewards.

Shifting your perspective and making those conscious steps will help pave the way for a more fulfilling future in your career, no matter the field. Visit our program finder to help you find the program or course that’s right for you!