In some circles, it appears that always going the extra mile in your career and even in other aspects of your life is celebrated as walking a heroic path despite the drastic negative effects overworking can have on mental, physical and emotional health. It’s a lifestyle where the career has become such a priority in your life or the environment that you work in that other aspects of being human and that’s known as hustle culture.
This is all a part of what experts call “hustle culture” and it’s so normalized that it can be tough to identify when you’re in it, and sometimes even tougher to break away.
What is hustle culture actually?
Hustle culture, also known as burnout culture and grind culture, refers to the belief that in order to achieve one’s professional goals, one must work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Overworking became popular in the twenty-first century, thanks in part to the Great Recession of 2008, among younger generations who felt compelled to work long hours and start a side business in order to succeed in a difficult economic climate. Positive portrayals of “rise-and-grind culture” (particularly on social media) soon normalized working harder, quicker, and for longer periods of time.
For many people, especially Millennials and Gen Z, working relentlessly and continuously, including by taking on side hustles and freelance gigs is a way of life. But controversies about hustle culture remain: Is it the best, quickest, and maybe even only way to “make it” in life, or is it a fast road to burnout?
Over the years, overworking has been modernized into what we know today as hustle culture by various self-help books you see on the shelves of bookstores, social media, and even through famous entrepreneurs.
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Many young people heed various books, social media platforms, and entrepreneurs as inspiration when chasing their own success. As a society that ambitiously works towards its goal, it’s no surprise to see people falling victim to the hustle culture where there’s no fine line between over-working and success.
Does Hustle culture actually produce hardworking individuals or just workaholic machines?
Businesspeople who credit their success to their hustle, Instagram influencers, and motivational speakers like Tony Robbins are among the many prominent proponents of grind culture. Then there’s Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, who claims that his billionaire status is due to his hustle-culture lifestyle. “Nobody ever transformed the world on 40 hours a week,” he is famous for saying.
There’s no doubting that putting in long hours and founding side enterprises has aided some people in achieving their professional goals, pursuing their passions, and establishing a financially successful existence. Many people don’t have a choice when it comes to acquiring a side job or two because it’s the only option to pay their bills and pay off debt.
Even for those without a side gig, burning the midnight oil can pay off. Many full-time salaried employees feel that overworking will help them to get raises and promotions—and avoid layoffs. Others feel that putting in long hours is expected in their industry or at their company—60-hour weeks are the only way to climb the corporate ladder in a competitive field or to meet financial goals such as buying a house or saving to send their kids to college.
Why is hustle culture toxic?
Authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) warn that overworking is dangerous. According to a WHO study, working at least 55 hours a week kills more than 745,000 people a year. Their report asserts that working too much increases the risk of a stroke by 35 percent and heart disease by 17 percent. And the problem is only getting worse as more and more people work longer hours.
The enormous pressure to appear successful on social media is cited by critics who argue that hustle culture is poisonous. They claim that once you get on the grind-culture hamster wheel, it’s nearly impossible to get off. People who hustle seek success, but once they achieve it, they become so addicted to the hustle that their current prosperity is insufficient. They could always put in more hours to accomplish an even more ambitious objective, leading to a workaholic lifestyle. Burnout culture, critics argue, pushes individuals over the brink, causing them to lose sight of what is actually important in life, such as mental and physical health.
So, will hustle culture end? It’s hard to say, especially when Musk, one of the richest men in the world, is still grinding every day. However, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many people work and live, leading more workers to question how they hustle. While working from home, many people exchanged their commute times for more working hours and less vacation time leading to higher productivity but also higher rates of burnout.
The author is a research associate and sub-editor at GVS. She has previously worked with Express-News Islamabad. She can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.