Live Better. Love Better. Work Better.

The Dangers of Hustle Culture

By: Danielle Bertini, LPC

How many of us have heard, and probably lived by, “work hard, play hard?” For years this had and has been the ideal quote to live by for young, working professionals. However, it seems like nowadays the “play” part of the phrase is nowhere to be found. 

Modern culture has created the pressure of succeed-or-you’re-nothing. People are increasingly connecting their identity and their internal value to their work ethic and professional achievements. The “grind” has become more than just the means to succeed, it’s now the goal itself. And this is in fact encouraged in many workplaces to weed out the good from the extraordinary.

And who is this mostly targeted at? The younger workforce, including fresh graduates who are eager to dive into a career, often being seduced by toxic workaholism that is disguised as passion (Lambert, 2019). 

How do these ideas get floated around? For example, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer discussed the idea of a 130-hour work week (insane, I know), saying that it would be possible “if you’re strategic about when you sleep, when you shower, and how often you go to the bathroom” (Lambert, 2019). Elon Musk, Tesla CEO, had a similar idea by saying “There are way easier places to work, but nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week” (Lambert, 2019).

This is that idea discussed earlier, about toxic workaholism being disguised as passion. But there is a fine line between a company culture that inspires employees to be passionate about what they do and one that pressures them to put their work before anything else, including family, health, and leisure. 

The negative effects of overworking are huge. Physical effects can range from something as minor as back pain and lack of sleep, to even fatal outcomes like heart attacks, stroke, and cancer. Don’t believe that? In China and Japan, death from overworking is so common that they literally have specific words for it—Gualaosi and Karoshi (Lambert, 2019).

This might all sound very bleak and morbid, however there are solutions! It is possible to live a full, engaged life while maintaining, and even boosting your mental health. Yuko (2019) outlines some microsteps that anyone can try to reduce the stress of this “always-on” culture.


  • Declare an end to the day, even if you haven’t completed everything.


It’s important to become comfortable with incompletions. Once you recharge, you’ll return ready to seize opportunities. 


  • Go to bed just a few minutes earlier than you usually do.


Even five minutes earlier a night will make a difference over time.


  • Schedule time on your calendar for something that matters to you.


This could be going to the gym, an art gallery, or seeing friends. Setting a reminder will help hold yourself accountable.


  • Keep a water bottle at your desk.


It can be easy to forget to stay hydrated. A double plus is that by refilling your bottle throughout the day you will be giving yourself breaks and opportunities to step away from your desk. 


  • When you arrive at work, pause and ask yourself, “Why is this important?”


Research shows that meaning is a motivator. By considering your work’s importance, you can better distinguish which tasks are worth your time and energy. 


  • Make time for tasks that matter by dropping the least important items on your to-do list.


If there’s an activity that’s draining your energy and keeping you from things that really matter, consider letting it go. You’ll have more energy left when you give yourself permission to cut loose the things that you don’t really care about.


  • Each day, spend time on someone else, even if you’re busy.


This is something that is beneficial to both you and whoever you’re helping, whether it’s something tangible, listening, or just being present. 


Lambert, H. M. (2019, August 15). The Dark Side of Hustle Culture: The Burnout Generation

Voices of CX Blog.

Yuko, E. (2019, May 16). The Brewing Backlash Against Hustle Culture and Its Effects on Our 

Mental Health. Thrive Global.


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