Hustle culture describes a common, modern workplace environment that emphasizes hard work and long hours as the key to success. It’s become increasingly popular recently, with many companies encouraging their employees to put in extra effort and work hours for better results.
However, this culture is found to harm mental health and worsen the workplace, as opposed to making organizations more productive and positive. It also makes employees feel overwhelmed at work and might even trigger mental health conditions, such as social anxiety at work or ADHD at work. Read on to learn more about the toxicity of hustle culture.
“Hustle culture is working excessively without regard for one’s self-care needs and relationships in order to reach professional success.”– Talkspace therapist Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
What Is Hustle Culture?
Hustle culture is when a workplace environment places an intense focus on productivity, ambition, and success, with little regard for rest, self care, or any sense of work-life balance.
This lifestyle has become increasingly popular in recent years as people strive to achieve their professional goals faster and more efficiently. Despite its popularity though, the on-the-go, no holds bar mindset has been linked to mental health concerns like increased anxiety, stress, and depression. Further, we now know that there’s a long-term opposite effect, decreased productivity. This toxic hustle culture has led to employees feeling burnout.
What is toxic productivity?
Toxic productivity refers to the belief that one must constantly be productive to succeed. This can lead to burnout and physical and mental exhaustion. The idea behind toxic productivity is that you’ll get ahead quicker if you work harder than everyone else. Unfortunately, though, this isn’t always true. The toxic productivity encouraged by hustle culture can negatively affect your well-being in the long run.
Why is hustle culture glorified?
The hustle culture concept has been glamorized by entrepreneurs who are seen as “successful” because they put in long hours without taking time off for themselves or their families. These individuals are often held up as role models for aspiring business owners who may not realize how damaging it can be to prioritize work over everything else in life.
There’s a strong correlation between social media and mental health, and social media has only made the problem even worse. Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook have made it easy for influencers and celebrities to share images of themselves working late into the night, glorifying and perpetuating a dangerous mindset among younger generations who look up to them for inspiration.
Examples of hustle culture in the workplace
One example of toxic hustle culture in the workplace is employers expecting employees to stay late or come to work early. Lofty to-do lists or demands, without enough time or resources to complete tasks, are also typical. This is one of the contributing factors to the great resignation movement.
Another example is managers prioritizing quantity over quality, sacrificing a job well done for a job that’s just, well, done.
Finally, some companies may encourage unhealthy competition among colleagues by rewarding those who outperform, instead of focusing on collaboration, teamwork, support, and a general in-it-to-win-it mentality. All in all, such a culture is not good for any employee’s wellbeing.
The Negative Impact of Hustle Culture on Mental Health
Hustle culture has become a pervasive part of modern life, with people pushing themselves to the limit to succeed. This relentless pursuit of productivity and success can seriously affect mental health, though.
“Hustle culture has a negative impact on mental issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress. It can also cause burnout due to work-related stress and long working hours. Workers in a hustle culture have lost the ability for a work-life balance that’s critical for positive mental health.”– Talkspace therapist Dr. Olga Molina, D.S.W., LCSW
Hustle culture encourages an all-or-nothing mentality that can lead to stress and anxiety at work when professional goals are not met, or deadlines are missed. In addition, the pressure to perform at maximum capacity every day is often too much for many people, leading them into a cycle of worry and fear about their prospects.
People who subscribe to a toxic hustle culture might feel guilty if they take time off or relax. As noted earlier, social media can exacerbate this guilt. Posts from peers, family, and friends who seem successful and have an unrelenting work ethic can quickly translate to a belief that taking breaks is lazy or unproductive.
When someone constantly strives for more without any respite, it can lead them down a dangerous path. Suddenly, nothing seems good enough or rewarding. This apathetic attitude towards life will only damage mental health in the long run.
Pushing yourself too hard also means there’s no room for failure. Even minor mistakes can be seen as catastrophic. Toxic positivity eliminates any realistic expectations about what is actually achievable in our life and at work.
High risk of illness and disease
Working too hard without rest leads to physical exhaustion. Being exhausted then causes psychological distress and increases the risk of illness. Lack of sleep, poor diet choices, and more cause weakened immune systems. Some research shows that long work weeks increase the risk of cerebrovascular and cardiovascular disease.
Hustle culture creates an unhealthy balance between work and personal life. It emphasizes career success prioritized over everything else, including relationships with family, friends, and partners. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for self care activities like exercise or stress management techniques like yoga or meditation, which can be essential for maintaining mental health.
How to Break Free from Hustle Culture
Breaking free from hustle culture can be daunting, but it is possible. It requires a shift in mindset and behavior and a willingness to create sustainable habits that prioritize mental health over productivity. Here are some tips on how to break free from hustle culture.
Knowing how to set healthy boundaries is essential for protecting your mental health. This means setting limits on the time you spend working or engaging in work-related activities outside normal business hours. Additionally, you need to set clear expectations with colleagues and managers about when you’ll be available for work-related communication and tasks.
Regular breaks throughout the day help keep stress levels low and allow your mind to rest so you can remain productive without burning out. Schedule short breaks during your day where you step away from your desk, go for a walk, listen to music, or do something else that brings joy into your life.
Prioritize self care
Self care should always come before other commitments or obligations to maintain good mental health. Make sure each day includes at least one activity dedicated solely to taking care of yourself. Reading a book, journaling for mental health, running, practicing yoga/meditation, or spending time with friends are good options.
Be kind to yourself
Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan. Instead, focus on what went well during the day and celebrate even small accomplishments, no matter how insignificant they may seem. Remember that everyone has their own unique pace when achieving goals, so don’t compare yourself with others around you — focus on doing what works best for YOU.
Escape the Toxicity of Hustle Culture with Talkspace
What is hustle culture? In short, it’s a pervasive attitude in today’s society that glorifies working hard and long hours, often at the expense of mental and physical health.
This toxic mindset has been linked to increased stress levels, burnout, and depression. To learn how to prevent burnout and break free from hustle culture and its adverse effects on mental health, Talkspace can provide support through online therapy sessions with licensed therapists.
- Rosa Rdela. Why hustle culture can do more harm than good to your mental health? Psychreg. https://www.psychreg.org/hustle-culture-harm-mental-health/. Published September 26, 2022. Accessed December 21, 2022.
- Virtanen M, Kivimäki M. Long working hours and risk of cardiovascular disease. Current Cardiology Reports. 2018;20(11). doi:10.1007/s11886-018-1049-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6267375/. Accessed December 21, 2022.