The rise of the hustle culture in recent years puts work at the centre of life, glorifying and praising long working hours and where time off is deemed ‘lazy’. Simply, if you are not hustling – you are failing. Is the hustle culture now receiving backlash and seeing an evolution? Has there been a trend shift in ideology, which is seeing more of a break culture?
Experts believe the rise-and-grind mentality was born out of the entrepreneurial boom in the 1990s and 2000s. The culture of 24/7 work and hustling was an aspirational business model for many – to be successful and get anything meaningful done you have to be doing long hours. The narrative grew over time, with LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok exploding with the hustle culture narrative. A professor at the University of Kent stated that “People adhered to the idea that you must devote yourself only to work and sacrifice everything outside of it.” But are advocates for hustle culture overly enthusiastic when really, you need ‘down time’ to switch off and relax from work to avoid burnout?
Researchers suggest that the pandemic lockdowns provided many workers the time and space to re-evaluate work life balance and coupled with the stress of financial uncertainty that some people came to find the hustle culture exhausting rather than empowering. This leaves us questioning whether the hustle culture is more of an ideological trend you want to be a part of rather than something you do for economic gain. Since Covid-19, people have started to reject the hustle culture, and are no longer willing to do the work that doesn’t matter, and they are setting boundaries between themselves and toxic narratives. Was the hustle culture seeing individuals working exclusively for pay, treating themselves as an asset rather than a person? Is the nation viewing this hustle culture now as an alienating way to live, causing a person to be wealthy but not well? Other experts suggest that the pandemic demonstrated the widespread inequality, challenging the idea that the hustle culture is a meritocracy which marries up with data showing us that social mobility is at its lowest ebb. Are people starting to reject the hustle culture narrative as they have made a link between its adoption and the wealth and social class of the individual?
Research suggests the most productive people are those who take regular breaks at work, not those who hustle 24/7 – so why was hustling ever popular if it has been proven to make you less productive? This begs the question as to how much of an impact social media has on the hustle culture ideology existing and thriving for a period. Post-lockdown, the social media trend has shifted, and we are witnessing more influencers advocating for a break culture which prioritises mental well-being. With this trend shift, will we see more employees working less hours but being more present, focused, and productive as they have a work-life balance?
Some sceptics have understandably questioned the authenticity of the hustle culture; can anyone work without breaks? The rejection and evolution of the hustle culture is looking to redefine what hard work looks like, as it is still accepted that hard work does pay off but are we now looking for an authentic, healthy narrative to take its place? Naturally, there will still be individuals who adopt the hustle culture, but it is important to understand moving forward that this approach may not work for everyone. As this break culture becomes more desirable, employers will do well to support and reinforce it to have happy, productive employees.
Written by Izzy Mchattie, EP Business in Hospitality