“Remember, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine!”
This seems to be the mantra of everyone from businessmen to entrepreneurs to influencers in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. While no one who says this is truly expecting the next great tragedy to be written during this time, it is certainly indicative of America’s “hustle culture,” the idea that people should be devoting as much time as possible to working.
Even in the midst of a pandemic, there is this expectation that people should be spending every possible moment of their day trying to work and be productive… and an idea that those who are not making the most of this time are lazy.
This hustle culture is not unique to the coronavirus pandemic. The “no days off” mindset has prevailed since the 1970s, when the word “workaholism” was first coined.
Since then, this idea has been upheld and praised by major players across a variety of industries. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, for instance, claims that “Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week,” emphasizing the idea that success only comes from working non-stop.
To some extent, these ideas are true. Those who are not willing to put in hard work are not going to accomplish as much as those who do, and laziness is not a virtue.
Is Hustle Culture Worth It?
However, when it comes to hustle culture, oftentimes the benefits do not outweigh the costs.
The downsides of “hustle porn” and the “always-on” work culture have been well-noted by Reddit co-founder and venture investor Alexis Ohanian.
Ohanian believes that a culture that glorifies hard work while it “ignores things like self-care… therapy… actually taking care of yourself as a physical being for the sake of work at all costs” is toxic. He frequently argues that there should be better ways to measure success than hours worked, and that hustle culture is one of the “most toxic, dangerous things in tech right now,” leading to depression and burnout.
Hustle culture often does more harm than good, regularly improving efficiency and output at the expense of a person’s mental health and overall well-being. In Japan, there is a word for when employees work themselves to death: karoshi, and they lose thousands of people each year to overworking. While there is no doubt that hard work is essential for success, at the end of the day, too much of a good thing is still a bad thing.
Although it feels great to receive recognition for working your hardest, it is important to have a work/life balance. Before you jump headfirst into hustle culture, remember there are some things, like mental and physical health, that are more important overall.