Work Hard Play Hard: The Fraud of Hustle Culture

Work Hard. Play Hard.  It’s beyond a saying – it’s a cliché, it’s in song lyrics, and it’s the backbone of many modern company cultures.  

Whether it’s glamorized on screen through TV and movies depicting beautiful people making amazing progress at the sacrifice of nearly everything else in their life; or it’s idolized in music that tells us the harder you hustle the bigger you make it – we all seem to have bought into the idea that the hustle culture is good.  

But who says that’s true?

Show me the evidence that piling work onto people until they can no longer afford to have a life, much less relationships, is a good thing.  Because I just don’t see it.

In fact, there are mountains of evidence that suggest that the work-first hustle culture is actually killing us.  Not figuratively, but literally our work is killing us.

The BBC recently cited research that shows people working more than 54 hours per week are at an increased risk of dying from overwork, which equates to three-quarters of a million people every year.  Another study by Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business found that “heavy workload and lack of autonomy to correlate strongly with poor mental health and the big D: death.”

And if overwork doesn’t directly kill you, it’s impacts might.  Ranging from increased depression and anxiety to increased cardiovascular disease and increased risk of stroke, the hustle culture has proven time and time again that it’s taking its toll.  And now we know that chronic stress, such as that brought on by the always-on hustle culture, can cause what’s called “rolling PTSD.”

Can someone help me understand how any of this is helpful for organizations?  No one would ever expect someone who was just held up at gunpoint to be ready to give their best in the upcoming client pitch, so why would anyone think that driving people into a chronic state of trauma is beneficial to a business or its results?  

The truth is, there is no evil empire that is crafting the hustle culture and forcing it upon us.  We’ve all subscribed to it which means it will take effort by all of us to reject the hustle culture.  How do we do that? We start by prioritizing life first.  It’s time to stop treating work like your lover and start putting your life and what you want out of it, first.  Because work should fit into life, not the other way around.