Why you shouldn't let hustle culture take over

Feel like you must ‘rise and grind’ every morning? That you need a side hustle to be successful? That if you don’t stay behind at work you’re failing? 

Yep. Sounds like hustle culture has a part to play.

The Financial Times has published that a growing number of people working in tech are resisting to hustle culture. Supported by the likes of Elon Musk and glamourised by celebrities, company leaders and business owners, hustle culture places an intense focus on productivity, ambition and success, with little regard for rest or work-life balance.

Hustle culture, also known as burnout culture, focuses on working long hours and sacrificing self-care in order to be successful. The promise is that if you give work your everything, you can achieve anything.

After Elon Musk took over Twitter in 2022 he warned employees must commit to “an extremely hardcore” working culture or quit.

This approach to work can be seen as hustle culture in its extreme form, measuring employees self-worth on their productivity.

Hustle culture in the workplace

The satisfaction, engagement and productivity of your employees are influenced by the work culture of your company.

Here are some indicators for if hustle culture is prevalent in your workplace:

  • Employees are praised or rewarded for working long hours
  • People send emails / Teams messages outside of hours
  • Employees encouraged against taking time off
  • Bragging about not getting enough sleep, skipping meals to work etc

Hustle culture is not sustainable, and these aren’t simple signs of hard workers. Why? Burnout employees who don’t receive support are more likely to quit, and whilst still at the company, are less productive than employees with a health work-life balance.

Richard Osborne, founder and CEO of UK Business Forums, explains: “The job market is very employee-driven as workers are, quite rightly, looking to maximise career earnings and job perks amid the global rise of inflation and subsequent economic downturn. As such, there’s a growing resistance to hustle culture.

It is essential to recognise the dangers of hustle culture and encourage a healthy work environment that values productivity alongside employee well-being.

“As a business owner or executive, you need to honestly ask yourself if you’re creating a culture in which working long hours and sacrificing self-care are required. It’s a very difficult realisation to make, but it also highlights exactly why leadership is a crucial trait in business. A stronger leader can help inspire, motivate and unite an entire team, thus helping to drive a business in the right direction. If your employees are able to see your passion for your work on a day-to-day basis, it will likely have a trickle-down effect.

“However, as a business owner, you also need to surround yourself with people who are dedicated to what you’re trying to build. Don’t be afraid to share the successes them with, support them and look after them, but if you think you have any ‘quiet quitters’ – someone who puts no more effect into a job than is minimally required – then it’s better to act quickly and move on. It only takes one person to completely zap the energy from your team.”

The Productivity Method

At 25 years old, influencer and entrepreneur Grace Beverley is CEO and Founder of TALA and Shreddy, and took first place in Forbes 30 under 30 list.

Inspired by modern pressure, Grace wrote Working Hard, Hardly Working, a “productivity blueprint” to teach people what working hard actually looks like, setting aside the warped hustle culture of today’s society.

Many, especially Gen-Z and Millennial women, are constantly connected, faced with the pressure to work and monetise everything. “We’ve kind of internalised this idea that we need to be working all the time,” says Grace to Glamour Magazine.

Grace criticises hustle culture that glorified overworking and burnout, arguing it is unsustainable and harmful to individuals mental and physical health.

In her book, Grace has a chapter called The Productivity Method. She discusses work-life balance the myths around it, and how to balance better.

She explains to Glamour Magazine: “I think one of the most important things is really knowing how to see what’s most important in your work so that beyond that, you can spend more time doing other things that you love. There's nothing wrong with that. There’s definitely a new view that you have to absolutely love every second of your work, but you can actually just be really good at getting the work done, do really well at that, and also enjoy all the other things in your life, too.”

Instead, she advocates for a more balanced approach to work, prioritising rest, self-care and setting boundaries. Success should not be measured solely by productivity and output, but also by personal fulfilment and happiness.

In response to recent comments on her social media criticising her recent approach to productivity, Grace said: “Having a venture backed startup and doing the different projects I do is sometimes toxic. You cannot have a venture backed startup and not have it take over your life a proportion of the time, even if you know a more ‘balanced’ approach would be better. This work and its rewards don’t come for free.

“I often don’t post during those times, but if I refrain from posting about it completely I am equally at fault for not giving an accurate representation beyond how my life looks aesthetically. Aka, if I post about how {life} is now it feels toxic and hustle culture esque, if I don’t it is unrealistic and showing the good without the bad.”

Transparency is important from startup founders. It is essential to recognise the dangers of hustle culture and encourage a healthy work environment that values productivity alongside employee well-being.