Why Hustle Culture Might Be Toxic to Your Business

Debunking a modern myth about company productivity.
Why Hustle Culture Might Be Toxic to Your Business
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5 min read
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Two competing trends are fighting for the souls of millennials. On one hand, there’s the much-documented commitment to the hustle, side or otherwise. On the other, there’s a backlash to hustle culture. In other words, a commitment to long hours of hard work to earn success has been widely celebrated, but is this tendency turning toxic and actually hindering entrepreneurial goals? Here’s why glamorizing workaholism may be hazardous to your physical and mental well-being, as well as potentially damaging to your business.

Hustle culture sets up unsustainable expectations. 

Take this image that made the rounds on Twitter last fall, which read: “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you are done.” It may sound admirably tough and gritty, but it's not a sustainable approach. If you never stop when you’re tired, you’re simply working yourself into exhaustion. Even if you manage to keep that going for some period of time, you can’t possibly do it over the long haul.

Related: When Hustling is Harmful

It encourages an unhealthy lifestyle.

Lack of sleep is an American epidemic, including in the business world, where it affects roughly half of all U.S. CEOs. The constant drive to keep working only creates more obstacles to deep, restful sleep. Not everyone needs the same full eight hours each night, but an ongoing deficit isn’t something you can ignore for long. Your body and mind simply won’t let you.

Hustle culture also often discourages more healthful nutritional habits. Junk- and fast-food options start looking more efficient than cooking from scratch, even though the faster choices are far less beneficial fuel for your body. Over time, this can result in malnutrition and lack of energy.

Then there’s physical exercise. An increase in the number of hours that U.S. workers spend seated before a computer screen has accompanied a rise in so-called lifestyle disorders, or conditions that can be treated with changes to darily routine such as exercise. Long hours sitting down on the job may not be as bad as smoking cigarettes, but it’s certainly not ideal.

Hustle culture is exhausting.

It’s a fact of life that we all get the same 168 hours each week—no more and no less. Always hustling means always striving for something, never taking any time for other pursuits that make life worth living. No matter how hard we work, or how efficiently, we can never actually create more time. For every task we choose to do, we must give up something else. It’s a zero-sum game.

So if you’re constantly choosing work-related activities in pursuit of the almighty hustle, that means you've given up something else that might be more rewarding or healthful in terms of your overall peace and well-being.

Hustle culture promotes burnout. 

Certainly, there are times and places (many of them, actually) when burning the candle at both ends is mandatory if you want to hit your mark and reach your goals. However, never taking time to decompress and enjoy the world around you is a recipe for fatigue and anxiety, which can lead to burnout.

Here in the U.S. at least, burnout is not an uncommon experience, especially among entrepreneurs. As a group, entrepreneurs are particularly likely to receive mental-health diagnoses that can indicate burnout.

Related: Why Scheduling Beats Hustling Every Time

Hustle culture breeds a toxic sense of competition.

If you encourage an environmental culture of “always hustle, all the time,” you may be unwittingly setting yourself and your employees up for a potentially dangerous development: a toxic sense of competition between teammates.

This radically unhealthy trend towards competition can lead strong personalities to wonder whether they can “out-hustle” their coworkers. Do they think that's what you value most as business owner? If so, many will push themselves to deliver it.

A little bit of competition isn’t a bad thing. It helps keep workers focused and on their toes. However, when winning becomes the only acceptable outcome, that healthy sense of rivalry can turn deeply dangerous to company productivity and individual well-being. At that point, you'll have to find ways to refocus your staff toward more unified goals.

The bottom line is that long hours and hard work are important, and even necessary, for entrepreneurs, but too much focus on hustling creates an unsustainable culture of panic and desperation. Respect the fact that, as human beings, we all come with hard-wired physical, mental and emotional limitations. Strive to foster a culture that celebrates hard work but also appreciates and rewards employees who take care of themselves and enforce reasonable boundaries.

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