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4 Signs Your Team Is Suffering From Hustle Culture


Hustle culture is the glorification of all work and no play. Not just regular work, either, but overwork. Followers of hustle culture see hustling as a way to reach their financial and professional goals. And they’re not necessarily wrong, at least in the short term. The more hours you work, the more money you can potentially make, and the more recognition you might receive.

Over time, however, achievement can turn to fatigue and fatigue can take away the drive for achievement. Spending all day, every day at work takes a toll on your body, mind, and performance. Even if you switch it up by having a regular job and then a small “side hustle,” you may still find yourself working all the time. That’s not good for anyone’s physical or mental health.

According to research from the World Health Organization, working 55-plus hours per week increases your risk of stroke by 35% and heart disease by 17%. Ironically, it’s not hard for a hustle-culture advocate to exceed that 55-hour threshold. True hustlers would see that as a bare minimum.

While you may be sitting here thinking that could never be you, it is easier than you might imagine to fall victim to hustle culture. During the pandemic, many people who started to work from home found it hard to set up healthy boundaries. As a result, they ended up being “on call” 24/7 and inadvertently joining the hustle.

As a leader, you’re no doubt concerned about your workers’ well-being. One way to ensure they’re not burning the candle at both ends is to look for the signs of hustle culture within your organization. Below are some of the top indicators to watch out for and what to do if you see them.

1. PTO keeps going untouched.

Hustle culture frowns upon taking a night off, let alone using up PTO. A quick way to evaluate the level of hustle at your organization is to examine your team’s PTO statistics. Are days being used? Vacations being taken? If not, it may be time to step in. Jane Huston, senior vice president of human resources at OneSource Virtual, explains that overworking “is sort of like dehydration—by the time you feel it, it’s too late.”

She continues: “Taking time off should be encouraged, and not just at the point where you feel like you need a break, but well before that to prevent burnout from setting in.” So, what you can do as a boss? Spend time during your next one-on-ones asking employees to start planning their upcoming vacations. Set a PTO goal for your organization just like you would any other goal.

2. Everyone’s constantly multitasking.

It can be easy to think “multitasking” is more productive, but science says otherwise. A study cited by Brain World Magazine suggests that the brain is set up with natural “bottlenecks.” These bottlenecks cause delays between the transference of information from one part of our brain to another. When multitasking, items are really just moving through a “queued up” list in the brain—each item lacking the attention it deserves.

Stepping off the multitasking train can be as easy as getting organized. Rather than encouraging your employees to do it all at once, give them tools to prioritize their task lists and check off one box at a time.

3. You haven’t heard “no” from anyone in a long time.

When you ask someone to do something, are you 99% certain you’re going to hear “yes” no matter what? Maybe that’s not a good thing. Workers who load up their plates run the risk of not being able to complete tasks well or on time. They can also become overwhelmed and embarrassed to admit that they’ve bitten off more than they could chew.

Train your team members in the art of saying “no” once in a while. For example, if you know a direct report accepts every project and ends up coming in during the weekends, have a talk. Explain that you’re happy about the contributions but worried that your employee is overextending themselves. Teaching someone how and when to say no can have a surprisingly positive effect on their overall well-being. Sometimes people just need permission.

4. Team members consistently come in early, stay late, and work weekends.

It may sound like a dream come true to have a crew of workaholics. Yet these go-getters probably aren’t as effective or as efficient as you might assume. At some point, everyone needs a break. As noted in a recent academic study published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, both after-work recovery and periodic at-work breaks are necessary to keep production levels and output higher.

How can you get your employees to turn off the switch? Make it mandatory—and do it yourself. When you start turning off your laptop at 5:30 p.m. and not answering Slack messages until the next morning except in emergency situations, your colleagues will get the picture. Plus, they’ll be less worried that you expect them to hustle. Often, overworking stems from the fear that the boss will retaliate if employees take appropriate time off to refresh and recharge. By showing your team that you’re following the rules, too, you’re giving them the okay to do likewise.

Hustle culture may sound exciting and energizing, but it’s all an illusion. The better way to keep your employees on track and hitting their objectives is by avoiding the hustle and leaning into a better work-life balance.

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