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No wonder we are tired:

A look at the Hustle Culture and Finding Balance

Lyndsey Parker Rosecrans

Lyndsey Parker Rosecrans


“Do the hustle.” Three of only six total words sung repeatedly by Van McCoy and the Soul City Symphony. I wonder if this is what McCoy had in mind, this “hustle culture” that’s become so commonplace in the workforce? It’s a hot-button topic. So hot in fact that an anti-hustle movement has developed, appropriately dubbed the #antiwork movement.

Where do you and your employees fall on the anti-work-to-hustle culture scale? To answer that, we first have to define what hustle culture is. We can then address the pros and cons of such a culture and highlight what some organizations are doing to find the right #balance.

What is hustle culture?

At its core, hustle culture “is all about constantly working.” It may not be new, but it seems to be more prevalent. The executive lifestyle goes beyond working hard, beyond long hours for a major deadline, and beyond moving up the corporate ladder. It’s an all-consuming obsession and need to be constantly productive that impacts our quality of life and our quality of work. With hustle culture, there is no such thing as a work-life balance. A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review tracking how large companies’ CEOs spend their time found that 79% of those leaders conducted business on weekend days and up to 70% of vacation days.

What we don’t realize is that hustle culture is typically not demonized but celebrated. Shoutouts in morning huddles for the project manager who worked 30 days straight to meet a deadline or the supervisor answering emails while on vacation. What’s more, employees – myself included – are proud participants.

Why we love the hustle

The hustle gets you places. We are taught from a very young age that hard work and dedication are the cornerstones of success. Do you want better grades? Hit the books. Do you want to be a better athlete? Practice, practice, practice. And you know what? It pays off. You ace the test, make the team, get the job, land the promotion. The most challenging part is differentiating where the natural hustle, and hard work ends and the toxic work obsession begins.

The benefits of participating in and fostering hustle culture can yield greater output, better sales, more clients, higher revenue – everything that can make an organization successful. So why bother stopping the hustle? In short, wellness. The timing of this blog following our Wellness in the Workplace series is strategic. Hustle culture is another culprit negatively impacting employee well-being. Our work addiction can trigger burnout, chronic stress, depression, anxiety, and even cardiovascular disease.

Despite putting in more effort and hours, an overworked and stressed employee can be up to 68% less productive, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Executives leading the charge are often at higher risk of the pitfalls associated with hustle culture. According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, the constant need for executives to always be “on” means absorbing the largest amount of stress, potentially leading to chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and hormone imbalances.

Finding a balance

The easy part is done. We know what needs to change. But where do we go from here? Before we can even begin moving toward potential solutions that would squash our corporate hustle culture, we have to have buy-in from leadership as much as buy-in from individuals. Starting with a common goal is step one. Commitment to that goal is step two. Steps three and beyond will look different for everyone and remain fluid as we develop as individuals and organizations.

In a recent article for Inc., Inc., Dmitri Lepikhov, CEO of Mightcall, outlines three steps to killing hustle culture in the workplace.

1. Agree on what a “good workday” is

    A blueprint developed by managers and employees to establish not a scheduled to-do list but task progression breaks to stay fresh and generally available. A long-term vision to outline what an employee is reasonably capable of doing.

    2. Vacation time for everyone

      Whether your organization offers a set amount of vacation days or the tricky “unlimited vacation days,” employees need to be encouraged to recharge and reset without being fearful of passive repercussions.

      3. Lead by example

        Everyone’s favorite adage. Lepikov states it beautifully: “If you genuinely want staff to relax and prioritize their own well-being at work, you need to show yourself doing it first.

        Corporate Wellness Magazine explains how some corporate boards of directors are taking matters into their own hands, and investing in their executives’ health and wellness. Going above and beyond their standard health insurance to include, preventative exams, health action plans, and follow-up care. In many cases, executives remain loyal to their company because of the health benefits they receive. These highly intelligent people understand that their company is investing in them and their families by investing in their health.

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