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  1. Blog
  2. Work-Life Balance
  3. December 16, 2021

Why We Should All Resolve to Ditch Hustle Culture in 2022

Grind to a halt

Hustle culture woman
Photo courtesy of Jorge Salvador

Hustle culture, also referred to as workaholism, burnout culture, or toxic productivity, is a style of working that we’re hoping will be left in the dust as we ring in the New Year. Influential entrepreneurs like Elon Musk (Time’s 2021 Person of the Year, apparently) and Gary Vaynerchuk have become notorious for glorifying hustle culture by sharing messages on social media like, “Nobody ever changed the world in 40 hours a week" or “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you are done.” Once viewed as an aspiration, there’s now enough research to show that this unhealthy way of working has way more pitfalls than benefits. 

Simply put, the pandemic has drastically magnified feelings about the workplace among millennials and Gen Z workers. Employees no longer see the appeal of working tirelessly in a cubicle to slowly shimmy their way up a middle management position, only to miss out on their personal lives and silently struggle with their mental health. 

Workers are demanding more benefits at this stage of the pandemic, and our data shows that women currently care most about Flexible Work Hours, Salary Satisfaction, and Ability to Telecommute. Pre-pandemic, Salary Satisfaction reigned as the number one metric with Paid Time Off and The People You Work With close behind, painting a picture that right now, women employees seriously value flexibility in their work.

Despite the data showing that women want a real integration of work and life, hustle culture is still rife in workplaces—especially in industries like tech and finance. A shocking 45 percent of workers still define themselves as ‘hustlers.’ Let’s take a deeper look at who’s most affected by hustle culture, why it’s toxic, how opinions on the lifestyle are changing, and how we can ditch the work style altogether. 

Read more: 20 Restorative Ways to Spend a Mental Health Day, According to Experts

What is hustle culture?

Life coach Shanita Liu defines hustle culture as “the culmination of mindsets and behaviors that position you to be out there working at all costs, expending all your spare time and energy to make a buck.” Basically, it stems from the idea that you can achieve anything with hard work.

From an outsider perspective, the life of a “hustler” can seem glamorous—you see this person who’s extremely passionate, motivated, and dedicated to their work, reaping amazing benefits of working hard. But in reality, these workers are suffering not-so-glamorous consequences. Extreme fatigue, personal life sacrifices, and neglect of physical and mental health are all byproducts of impressing higher-ups in hopes of quickly advancing their careers. 

Signs of a hustle culture mindset:

  • Working extremely long hours—way more than 40 hours per week

  • Bragging about not getting enough sleep

  • Drinking multiple cups of coffee to survive the day

  • Prioritizing constant productivity over rest

  • Viewing unused PTO as a badge of honor

Plus, there are so many ways to “hustle” now. Hustling in a 9-to-5 job is super common, but side-hustles have become another popular outlet for working 24/7. “The side-hustle is [a] common route that folks take in an effort to maintain the financial security from their full-time employment while simultaneously working for themselves part-time to launch products, offer services, or put their brands out into the entrepreneurial space,” says Liu. 

Read more: How to Make the Job Promotion Process Equitable & Why Women Fall Behind 

Why hustle culture is toxic

Working long hours without prioritizing rest and mental health has many consequences, leading to unsustainable schedules, higher rates of anxiety and depression, and burnout. Financial advisor Zach Conway says, “we’re perpetuating a culture that’s driving a highly caffeinated, sleep-deprived, and anxiety-ridden generation to forsake everything but work while falling further and further into depression and debt.” 

It’s a sneaky way of promoting toxic competition and justifying burnout. A little bit of competition is certainly healthy, but when it becomes your sole motivator, you’re setting yourself up for failure in terms of your productivity and wellbeing. Research shows that ironically, working too much decreases productivity by 68 percent in employees, and entrepreneurs are at a higher risk to receive mental health diagnoses that indicate burnout.

“Hustle culture requires that you keep going despite prolonged stress and exhaustion, which is then rewarded with praise and props from other ‘hustlers.’ This culture does not openly praise folks who make their self-care a priority, and without the messaging that self-care is key to growth on all levels, the energy-depleting behaviors continue and the fast-paced lifestyle gets further perpetuated,” says Liu. 

Liu further explains, “it reinforces the notion that more work and productivity equals more success. Women and BIPOC [employees] are already prone to these unhealthy work habits due to layers of cultural conditioning, exploitation in the workplace, and histories of sacrifice within their families.” Let’s talk about that next.

Read more: What It Means to Reach Burnout: Your Work, Your Time & Your Health

Hustle culture’s impact on women: unbalanced and intersectional

There are so many quotes from successful women attributing their career success to “hustling” or “grinding.” But in too many ways, hustle culture and the toxic term “girlboss” are often synonymous—including how unrealistic and out-of-reach those ideals are for most women, especially women of color. 

The truth is, while hustle culture exploits all, hustling is a necessity for survival to some, and a privilege to others. And it’s usually white women who reap the benefits of hustle culture since they already have more systemic privilege and opportunity. 

For example, child care is often a huge barrier for mothers of color in terms of advancing in the workplace. Black and Latina mothers are more likely to be the primary wage-earner in their households than white mothers, with 71 percent of Black mothers and 41 percent of Latina mothers serving as the primary economic support for their families. These mothers often struggle with finding affordable child care that aligns with their work schedules, posing a binary challenge since they need to work longer hours to support their families, but also can’t afford to leave their children at home since women of color earn significantly less than white women.

A woman who can afford daily child care will have an easier time working longer hours and will most likely have more facetime with her boss, setting her up for more advancement opportunities. This pattern in turn reinforces the barriers that keep BIPOC and marginalized employees from climbing the ladder at work, and leads to more unhealthy working habits in employees who are already struggling. 

By definition, BIPOC working moms are hustling—they're overworking, burning out even. They're participating in hustle culture. But the false promise of hustle culture is that all of that hard work will have a payoff, and that payoff is success, and for these moms, it simply doesn't happen because they're hustling to breakeven, not for a breakthrough. 

Shifting mindsets on hustle culture

Here’s the kicker—no one wants to work like this anymore, anyways. 

Mindset coach and business consultant Jessie DaSilva recently went viral on TikTok after she responded to a reporter who had emailed her asking for her expert opinion about what perks millennials want in the workplace.

She says, "The biggest mistake I see is companies assuming millennials want perks, nap pods, snack rooms, free avocado toast, or whatever else. Those things might seem cool on a company website, but they will never make up for a thrive-able wage, good benefits, vacation time, and the ability to learn and grow with a company."

The bottom line is that millennials and Gen Z, the future of the workforce, don’t view overworking as an aspiration. Instead, they care about prioritizing self-care and working at companies where they can both grow and also develop hobbies outside of work and spend ample time with their family and friends. 

Plus, Liu explains that historically, hustle culture has been tied to brick-and-mortar institutions. Because remote work is on the rise and not going anywhere, it’ll be easier for women to find job options going forward that can better integrate flexibility and autonomy in their work schedules without sacrificing the possibility of upward mobility. 

Read more: The One Wellness Benefit Your Employees Want Most

So, how do we ditch hustle culture?

If we’re all over this style of working, how can we get rid of it for good? Liu says that we can't let go of hustle culture and embrace working in a sustainable way until we’re self-aware of the importance of mental health and self-care in the first place. 

“So many people have neither had role models nor teachers to educate them on the importance of mental wellness. A quick online search can serve as a simple start to learning more about mental wellness, but the real work begins when someone can check in with themselves about what they need mentally, emotionally, physically, and even spiritually, and take targeted action steps.”

Five tips to help us move past hustle culture:

  • Recognize the hustle and change your mindset. If you feel like you’re overworked and overwhelmed, take some time to shift your mindset to prioritize yourself and your needs over prioritizing work with no rest. You should never feel guilty for taking breaks. 

  • Figure out what’s important to you in life. Writer and brand coach Celinne Da Costa says, “In a world that is inundated with distractions, busy-ness, and addiction to hustling, there is merit in taking a step back and looking at the big picture.” Ask yourself what your motivations and goals are in your life and career. What does success look like to you outside of a 40-hour-plus work week?

  • Start setting boundaries. There will always be more work you can do, but everyone needs time away from work in order to recharge. After you’ve figured out what’s important to you, whether it’s being able to eat dinner with family every night or having enough time to read before bed, start setting boundaries with yourself (and your boss) on when you’re available to work after normal hours. 

  • Share your story. If you’ve fallen victim to hustle culture, consider sharing your story to educate other women on the dangers of workaholism. DaSilva didn’t know her TikTok rant would go viral, but her message has subsequently struck a chord with hundreds of thousands of other women who feel the same way. Solidarity is power. 

  • Consult a life coach, mental health counselor, or therapist. If you’re struggling with anxiety, depression, or burnout from your job, consider talking to a professional. Once you get to the root of the issue, you’ll be able to better move past husting.

Read more: 3 Essentials to Practicing Self-Care During Your Job Search

About our source

Shanita Liu, MPA, CPC shows people how to activate their courage. As a healer and Chief Energy Officer at Coach Shanita, Inc., she shows people how to tune in and reconnect to their courage, power, and strength so that they can stop sacrificing themselves and start transforming what’s in their hearts into realities. Visit her website to activate your courage, a powerful exercise based on her recent talk, as seen on TED.com.

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Photo of Cara Hutto

Cara Hutto

Assistant Editor

Cara Hutto is the assistant editor at InHerSight. Her writing primarily focuses on workplace rights, job searching, diversity, and allyship, and she holds a bachelor’s degree in media and journalism from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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