The concept of hustling, burning out, grinding, and engaging in a rat race is rooted in the belief that one can attain success by putting in more effort than the average person. However, adhering to this philosophy frequently results in overexertion, weariness, and insufficient opportunities for relaxation.
What studies reveal
According to a survey conducted by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence in 2022, 70 per cent of employees expressed the desire to quit their jobs due to concerns about their well-being, while over 40 per cent of employees reported feeling exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed.
A 2016 report by the USA travel association revealed that the number of American workers taking vacation time has been decreasing steadily since 2000. The report also found that 55 per cent of American workers did not use their vacation time in 2015, forfeiting 222 million days.
Tracing the origins
The concept of hustling originally emerged as a response to the great recession in 2008. and soon gained traction among millennials. It was popularised in rap lyrics, which perpetuated the notion that hustling is the modern way to succeed.
The music of artists like Jay-Z, who famously rapped “I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man,” and Kanye West, who declared “Reach for the stars so if you fall you land on a cloud,” reinforces the belief that one can transcend the norm by constantly striving for more.
“Hustle culture has also been glorified by entrepreneurs, business leaders, and influencers who often share stories and social media posts,” says Haryana-based Smriti Joshi, a lead psychologist at Wysa, an AI-based chatbot to manage mental health.
How much is too much hustling?
Don Zimmer, a former American baseball player once said, “What you lack in talent can be made up with desire, hustle, and giving 110 per cent all the time.”
“While the idea of working hard to achieve success is not inherently negative, neglecting work-life balance can lead to stress, burnout, and mental health issues,” says Joshi.
“It can cause individuals to replace activities such as good nutrition, exercise, sleep, and hobbies with working which has a detrimental effect on both physical and mental health,” says Colorado-based Briana Severine, psychotherapist and founder of Sanare Psychosocial Rehabilitation.
Ahmed, 34, education counsellor and co-founder of Eduprov, Bengaluru, also faced the consequences of hustle culture. He says, “Starting a company and working towards its success does not come overnight. It requires day and night of hustling.” Ahmed says that he would hardly get 3-5 hours of sleep every night. Working every day without a break caused him mental breakdowns and reduced his productivity.
“At times I’d just stare at the ceiling feeling lost trying to push myself further.” He says that he felt fatigued all the time, had constant negative thoughts and was mentally isolated from everyone.
Strategies to combat hustle culture and prevent burnout
Experts provide strategies to counteract the effects of hustle culture:
- Find a way to set vocational goals that are realistic within a healthy amount of time allotted for work.
- Having a balance helps you be more focused and efficient and allows you to prevent serious burnout. This includes practising five minutes of mindfulness, taking short breaks and resting adequately.
- It is also important to self-reflect on the core tenets driving your belief in hustle culture. How can you reframe your belief to do an excellent job without sacrificing yourself? Sometimes, it is as simple as taking a pause and asking yourself if this is actually urgent or does it just feel that way in your mind.
- Team building – hustle culture is often very competitive, with the race to win or be better than everyone. Having regular team-building activities encourage the feeling that everyone is on the same side and can help build a supportive workplace culture.
- Work-life balance creates a culture where it is normal to talk about your passions outside of work, take regular breaks, and use your paid time off and sick leave if you need it.
- Do not encourage people to work through ill health – in the long run, it is not good for anyone.
- Have hobbies that do not mingle with your work, for instance – a writer can have hobbies like horse riding, swimming or knitting. An engineer can find pleasure in writing or poetry and a police officer can go for cooking or playing the guitar. Having different hobbies can help lead a fulfilled life.
Finding balance is the key
Setting boundaries is an important way to find balance with personal and vocational success. “For example, if you are often working through lunch, set up a time each day in which you will honour a break for nutrition,” says Severine.
“Another way to do this is by asking yourself what is okay, and what is not, and where you draw the line in terms of hours worked,” adds Joshi. Working on a weekend sometimes or extending an hour occasionally is okay but if it becomes more and more frequent one must look into it.
Find a time in which you switch off your work email, and push everything off until the next workday. The type of boundaries that are possible varies from person to person and job to job. So, look for realistic ways to restructure your time to consider your own health and mental health while still advancing your career.
A great way to find balance is by building a life outside of work. This can be centred around relationships, hobbies, health – anything that makes you want to turn the computer off and get out and live a happy and balanced life.