Hustling used to be known as a temporary state of working hard to meet a deadline or goal. However, with the glorification of hustle culture on social media, we have normalized the constant pursuit of work in different forms until we are almost always working. This has become a state of being for many people. Behind its aspirational sheen of inspiring people to work hard, hustle culture, or as New York Times writer Erin Griffith calls it “toil glamor” is just workaholism rebranded.
What is Hustle Culture?
‘Hustle culture’ glorifies the mentality that one must always be ‘hustling’ or working hard in pursuit of our goals. Hashtags such as #NoDaysOff, #EveryDayImHustling and #TheHustleIsReal are just some of the ways social media pushes hustle culture. The mentality of ‘hustle culture’ inspires us to be passionate about our work, which can be a good thing to an extent. However, it also creates the mindset that success is only possible if you are constantly sacrificing other aspects of your life for your career. Some people are happy with this type of grind, but for others, this work-life imbalance can increase the risk of psychological and physical health issues and result in mass burnout. That’s why ‘hustle culture’ is often referred to as ‘burnout culture’.
Why Do We Feel The Need To Hustle?
Everyone has a side gig these days, as the gig economy is thriving. In fact, according to a survey, up to 61.1 million Americans intend to start a side hustle if they don’t already have one going. After going home from their 9-5 job, some people spend their evenings and free time working on their side hustle to earn extra income. Someone who has a side hustle is seen to be ambitious and resourceful, and while this lifestyle choice is glamourized, it actually reflects an alarming failure in society.
Some People Hustle Due to Increased Living Expenses From Inflation
3 out of 10 working Americans with a side hustle reported that they need extra money for living expenses such as rent and food. Even though the minimum wage is increasing, it is still insufficient to keep up with rising costs of living due to inflation. Increased caring responsibilities such as caring for aging parents and family planning is a reason people need the extra income.
Hustling to Pay Off Debts
The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in many companies downsizing and giving employees pay cuts. As a result, their basic salary can barely make ends meet, and some struggle to pay their bills and debt. Side hustles can help you earn extra income to pay off student loans and credit card debt faster. Paying off your debt can save you money in the long run by lowering interest payments.
Low Job Security
The pandemic has taught us that it is always good to have a plan B. The pandemic led to mass unemployment and pay cuts across various industries. From January to April 2020, around 22.1 million jobs were lost. This resulted in many people needing to scramble for side hustles as a main source of income. Although companies have started rehiring in the post pandemic world, many people still keep their side hustle jobs as a precautionary, back-up source of income.
Money is not the sole incentive to start a side hustle. According to a report by Smarts, 38% of Americans started a side business to do something they find enjoyable, and 16% of them want to try out a new company idea. Entrepreneurship and being your own boss has created ‘achiever fever’ among young adults. Everyone wants to start their own thing, and now we have the resources to. The alluring premise of meritocracy dictates that everything is within our reach. As long as we work hard enough, we can achieve our goals. To maintain a steady flow of income, keep your desk job, and hustle after hours to find out if you and your business idea has what it takes to be the next big thing.
Symptoms of Being Overworked
Whether you are working side gigs or living off one income stream, the hustle culture can lead to mass burnout. Our desire to constantly work has led to the boundaries between work and personal life to blur. Working long hours in an office or home, or always having to be available to answer calls and team meetings, can lead to several physical and mental health issues.
Recently, the WHO has legitimized burnout as an official medical diagnosis. Here are some symptoms of being overworked:
- Sleep disorders
- Weakened immune system
- Lack of energy for simple tasks
- Mood swings
- Difficulties finding work life balance
How to Get Out of the Hustle Culture Mindset
Contrary to popular belief, burnout from a 70 hour work week is not something that can be solved with a bubble bath or a meditation session. Instead, try to understand the root of your burnout. The financial insecurity due to Covid has led us to internalize a need to be constantly working. Understanding that burnout is a fundamentally systemic issue can be a cathartic experience for you to change your mindset.Here are some tips to help you let go of the hustle culture mindset:
1. Let Go of Guilt
So many people glorify hustling on social media, and they are all too keen to share their lifestyle with their followers. It is so easy to fall into the hustle culture trap and think that working all the time is the norm. It is important to note that this lifestyle is not for everyone. Instead, let go of the hustle culture ideals, and make your mental health and well-being your central focus. No success is worth going without adequate sleep, and drinking 5 cups of coffee per day is not healthy, either.
2. Work Hard, Play Hard
It is crucial to find the balance between your work and personal life. Give your 100% at work, but also know how and when to stop. Switch off your laptop and pause your notifications after work hours. Work on planning and capping your tasks for the day to ensure that you don’t burn out. Outside of work, do what makes you happy- whether it is meeting friends, trying out a new cafe, or going for a hike, find the time to destress and think of something other than work.
3. Set Aside More Time to be Alone
Find time for yourself. Instead of spending every single waking moment working or ‘hustling’, remember to incorporate time to recharge into your schedule. Social engagements can be draining. If you are having a particularly busy week, it is okay to limit social engagements and spend some time by yourself instead. Recharge by reading a book or binge watching your favorite Netflix show. If you are looking for a self care practice, try these self care activities.
What Systemic Changes Can We Make To Help Employees?
The hustle culture masks an underlying systemic failure. We are having to work two jobs in order to keep ourselves afloat. Below are some systemic changes we can push to protect employees in the form of corporate rules and social policies:
1. Shortening the Work Day or Work Week
Humans are not machines. According to research, productivity per hour plateaus and falls after a person works more than 50 hours per week. Working for long hours is not productive and can even negatively affect the well-being of employees. Employees should be given a schedule with enough leisure time so that they can give their best at work. France took this idea further and implemented a “right to disconnect” law which ensures that employees are not pressured to respond to work calls and emails outside of work hours. Besides that, some companies in the UK are currently exploring a 4 day work week.
Sometimes, shortening the work week or work day can end up boosting productivity and improving the company as a whole.
2. Implementing a Universal Basic Income
Many people are barely able to pay their monthly expenses with their day job due to inflation. As a result, people are taking second jobs and working themselves to the bone in order to have some savings. With federal stimulus packages failing to meet the needs of millions during the pandemic, many believe that a source of guaranteed income is needed to cover basic living costs. Many countries have experimented with some form of Universal Basic Income and all yielded positive results.
What Do Your Genetics Say About Your Stress Tolerance?
Interestingly, your genetics can affect your stress tolerance. This explains why different people are able to handle different levels of stress. Take an at-home DNA test from CircleDNA to determine your stress tolerance. With knowledge about your stress tolerance with these DNA insights, you can better determine if the hustle culture is for you. With that being said, just because you have a high level of stress tolerance does not mean you should be constantly pushing yourself to ‘hustle’. Instead, prioritize your physical and mental well-being by slotting in sufficient breaks and self-care activities. With a balanced lifestyle, you can optimize your well-being, and achieve so much more in life, without burning out.