What is hustle culture, and why is it bad for your employee’s mental health?

10 min read
What is hustle culture, and why is it bad for your employee’s mental health?
What is hustle culture, and why is it bad for your employee’s mental health?

In the ever-evolving landscape of the modern workplace, a pervasive phenomenon known as "hustle culture" has emerged, advocating for an incessant and relentless pursuit of professional success.

This culture glorifies long working hours, constant multitasking, and the blurring of boundaries between work, family, and personal life. While the term "hustle" may carry a positive connotation of hard work and determination, its darker side reveals a troubling impact on the mental health of employees and building a successful business.

In this blog, we delve into the intricacies of hustle culture, examining the societal and organizational pressures that fuel its rise. The hypercompetitive nature of today's business world often fosters an environment where the relentless pursuit of success overshadows the well-being of individuals.

As employees strive to meet unrealistic expectations and constantly prove their worth, the toll on mental health becomes increasingly evident.

We explore the detrimental effects of hustle culture on the psychological and emotional welfare of workers, shedding light on burnout, anxiety, and a diminished work-life balance.

It is crucial to understand why this culture, despite its outward appearance of productivity, can be a detriment to the very individuals it seeks to propel forward in their careers.

What is hustle culture, and why is it bad?

Employee feeling low in battery
What is hustle culture, and why is it bad?

Hustle culture is a contemporary work phenomenon that glorifies the constant pursuit of productivity and success, often at the expense of an individual's well-being.

Rooted in the belief that busyness equates to progress, hustle culture encourages long working hours, constant multitasking, and the relentless drive to achieve professional goals.

The incessant pressure to meet unrealistic expectations can lead to burnout, a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion.

Employees navigating hustle culture often find themselves on a perpetual treadmill, grappling with stress, anxiety, and a blurred boundary between work and personal life.

Data from the World Health Organization shows that in 2016, more than 700,000 deaths were caused by working long hours.

The relentless pursuit of success, while seemingly productive, can result in diminished creativity, compromised decision-making, and a strained work-life balance.

Moreover, hustle culture tends to overlook the importance of rest, reflection, and self-care, essential elements for sustained productivity and mental well-being.

This unbalanced approach not only jeopardizes the health of individuals but also undermines the long-term success of organizations by fostering a workforce that is emotionally drained and less resilient.

In essence, the drawbacks of hustle culture underscore the necessity of cultivating a work environment that values both achievement and the holistic welfare of employees.

What is toxic productivity?

Employee feeling confused handling multiple tasks
What is toxic productivity?

Toxic productivity refers to an unhealthy and counterproductive approach to work that prioritizes excessive output and relentless activity at the expense of well-being and genuine achievement.

Unlike a positive and constructive work ethic, toxic productivity involves an obsessive focus on constant busyness, often driven by external pressures, societal expectations, or internal anxieties.

Individuals subscribing to toxic productivity may feel compelled to overwork, set unattainable goals, and sacrifice their mental and physical health in the pursuit of success.

This mindset often leads to burnout, a state of chronic exhaustion characterized by emotional fatigue, reduced performance, and a sense of detachment from everyday life.

Toxic productivity can manifest in various forms, such as an inability to relax, an obsession with perfectionism, and a persistent feeling of inadequacy despite significant accomplishments.

Moreover, toxic productivity can negatively impact interpersonal relationships, as individuals may struggle to prioritize personal connections over work-related tasks.

It undermines the importance of rest, leisure, and self-care, which are crucial for maintaining a healthy work-life balance and sustained productivity.

Recognizing and addressing toxic productivity involves fostering a workplace culture that values realistic goals, emphasizes the significance of downtime, and encourages employees to prioritize their overall well-being.

A balanced and sustainable approach to work ensures not only productivity but also the long-term health and fulfillment of individuals.

Why is hustle culture glorified?

Employee feeling frustrated while holding a laptop
Why is hustle culture glorified?

Hustle culture is often glorified for several reasons, reflecting societal and workplace dynamics that contribute to its widespread acceptance:

Success narrative

Hustle culture is an idea often associated with success stories of individuals who have achieved remarkable goals through hard work and dedication. The narrative of "hustle to succeed" can be compelling, inspiring others to adopt a similar approach in their pursuit of success.

Economic pressure

In competitive economic environments, the fear of falling behind or facing financial instability can drive individuals and organizations to work hard and embrace hustle culture. The belief that working harder equates to greater financial rewards can make people more willing to sacrifice their well-being for professional achievements.

Entrepreneurial idealization

The rise of entrepreneurship as an idealized career path has contributed to the glorification of hustle culture. Entrepreneurs often share stories of overcoming challenges through relentless work, influencing others to emulate their work ethic.

Social validation

In a culture that values productivity and achievement, successful individuals may seek validation and recognition through their work. Hustle culture provides a framework for social validation, where being busy and achieving professional goals is perceived as a measure of self-worth.

Technology and connectivity

Advances in technology and increased connectivity have blurred the boundaries between work and personal life. The ability to work remotely and be constantly connected to work-related tasks can create an environment that encourages a continuous, hustle-driven mindset.

Fear of missing out (FOMO)

The fear of missing out on opportunities or falling behind peers can drive individuals to embrace hustle culture. Social comparison and the desire to keep pace with others in a rapidly changing world contribute to the saying that hustle culture is the glorification of constant productivity.

Corporate expectations

Within corporate environments, there may be an expectation for employees to demonstrate dedication and commitment through working long hours and a constant pursuit of professional goals. This expectation, whether implicit or explicit, can foster a culture of hustle.

The negative impact of hustle culture on mental health

Employer feeling confused due to huge drop in revenue
The negative impact of hustle culture on mental health

Data from a 2022 Deloitte survey shows that 70% of C-level executives often consider quitting their jobs for one that better supports their well-being.

This shows that hustle culture's relentless emphasis on constant productivity and the pursuit of success can have profound negative effects on mental health and push employees to leave a company.

  1. Burnout: The pressure to constantly hustle without adequate rest or breaks can lead to burnout—a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. Burnout is characterized by feelings of cynicism, reduced performance, and a sense of detachment from work.
  2. Chronic stress: Hustle culture often promotes an environment of chronic stress, where individuals feel overwhelmed by work-related stress, the demands of work, and the need to prove their worth continually. Prolonged exposure to high-stress levels can contribute to various mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.
  3. Anxiety and perfectionism: The relentless pursuit of success in hustle culture can foster anxiety and perfectionism. For example, Individuals may feel a constant need to meet unrealistic standards, fearing failure or judgment if they fall short. This perfectionist mindset can exacerbate stress and hinder overall well-being.
  4. Impaired work-life balance: Hustle culture blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, making it challenging for individuals to disconnect from professional responsibilities. This impaired work-life balance can lead to increased stress, strained relationships, and a lack of time for personal pursuits and relaxation.
  5. Decreased creativity and innovation: The constant pressure to hustle may stifle creativity and innovation. Mental fatigue resulting from overwork can hinder the brain's ability to think creatively and solve problems, ultimately impacting an individual's long-term effectiveness and contributions.

What are the symptoms of hustle culture?

Employees are feeling sick in the workplace
What are the symptoms of hustle culture?

If you notice these symptoms, then your company might have a hustle culture.

  1. Excessive busyness: Individuals in hustle culture often glorify busyness, wearing it as a badge of honor, which can lead to chronic stress and burnout.
  2. Perfectionism: A relentless pursuit of flawlessness and an intolerance for mistakes are common symptoms, contributing to heightened stress levels.
  3. Sleep disturbances: Insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns may arise due to an overactive mind and heightened stress associated with the culture of constant hustle.
  4. Neglect of self-care: Individuals may prioritize work over self-care, neglecting activities that promote physical and mental well-being.
  5. Elevated anxiety: Anxiety levels may increase as individuals constantly strive to meet high expectations, fearing failure or judgment.
  6. Reduced creativity: The pressure to produce results quickly may stifle creative thinking, hindering innovation and problem-solving abilities.
  7. Social isolation: An intense focus on work commitments can lead to isolation, distancing individuals from social connections crucial for mental health.
  8. Physical symptoms: Physical manifestations of stress, such as headaches, fatigue, and muscle tension, can manifest due to the constant pressure associated with hustle culture.
  9. Diminished job satisfaction: Despite achieving professional milestones, individuals may experience reduced job satisfaction, as the relentless pursuit of success takes a toll on overall well-being.

How do we help employees recover from hustle culture burnout?

Employees are being happy in the workplace
How do we help employees recover from hustle culture burnout?

By implementing the following strategies, organizations can create a supportive and sustainable work environment that aids in the recovery from hustle culture burnout, fostering healthier, more resilient employees.

  • Encourage open communication: Foster a culture where employees feel comfortable discussing their burnout experiences. Encourage open conversations about workload, stressors, and personal challenges.
  • Flexible work arrangements: Provide flexibility in work hours or remote work options to allow employees to balance their professional and personal lives and responsibilities better. This flexibility can help alleviate burnout.
  • Promote boundaries: Encourage clear boundaries between work and personal life. Discourage after-hours emails or expectations, allowing employees to disconnect from social media and recharge during non-working hours.
  • Offer mental health support: Provide access to mental health resources, such as counseling services or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs), to support employees in managing stress and burnout.
  • Educate on time management: Offer training on effective time management and prioritization. Helping employees organize their tasks can contribute to a more manageable workload and reduce stress.
  • Recognize and celebrate achievements: Acknowledge and celebrate employees' accomplishments to instill a sense of appreciation. This recognition can boost morale and counterbalance the negative effects of burnout.
  • Encourage regular breaks: Emphasize the importance of taking breaks throughout the day. Short breaks can enhance productivity, reduce stress, and contribute to overall well-being.
  • Provide professional development opportunities: Offer opportunities for skill development and personal growth. This can rekindle a sense of purpose and motivation, counteracting the monotony that often accompanies burnout.
  • Establish a supportive work environment: Cultivate a workplace culture that prioritizes support and teamwork. Encourage colleagues to assist each other during peak times and share responsibilities.
  • Promote self-care: Advocate for self-care practices, such as exercise, mindfulness, and sufficient sleep. Create an environment where employees feel empowered to prioritize their well-being.

How can mental health surveys help you spot and stop a toxic hustle culture at your work?

Mental health surveys serve as indispensable tools for organizations seeking to identify and rectify toxic hustle cultures within their workplaces. By leveraging these surveys, employers can gain crucial insights into the well-being of their workforce and the prevailing dynamics that may contribute to a burnout culture.

One key benefit of mental health surveys is their capacity for early detection of burnout symptoms. By assessing stress levels, emotional well-being, and overall job satisfaction, these surveys enable organizations to identify signs of burnout before it reaches a critical stage. This early detection is vital for implementing timely interventions and support systems.

Surveys also provide a comprehensive understanding of how employees perceive the workplace culture.

Questions about workload, expectations, and the availability of support systems shed light on whether there is an overarching culture of constant hustle. By gauging these perceptions, organizations can tailor interventions to address specific cultural aspects contributing to toxicity.

Moreover, mental health surveys help in identifying high-stress areas within the organization. By pinpointing specific departments or roles experiencing elevated stress levels, employers can allocate resources and implement targeted strategies to alleviate the burden in those particular areas.

The assessment of work-life balance is another crucial aspect covered by these surveys. Questions regarding work hours, flexibility, and the ability to disconnect unveil insights into the effectiveness of existing work-life balance practices.

Recognizing areas where improvements are needed allows organizations to refine policies and promote a healthier balance between professional and personal and better work-life balance.

Additionally, mental health surveys delve into the prevalence of perfectionism and unrealistic expectations within the workplace. Understanding the pressure employees feel to meet unattainable standards enables organizations to address cultural norms contributing to toxic hustle cultures.

Ultimately, by harnessing the insights garnered from these surveys, organizations can proactively create environments that prioritize employee well-being, foster a sustainable work culture, and curtail the detrimental effects of toxic hustle practices.


The pervasive influence of hustle culture in the contemporary workplace demands careful consideration, as its implications for mental health are profound and far-reaching.

Glorifying constant productivity, unrealistic expectations, and a relentless pursuit of success, hustle culture often leads to burnout, anxiety, and a compromised work-life balance. The negative impact is not only detrimental to individual well-being but also poses risks to organizational success.

Through these surveys, organizations can gain valuable insights into employee perceptions, early signs of burnout, and specific areas of concern. Armed with this information, interventions can be targeted, promoting a workplace culture that values both productivity and the holistic well-being of its workforce.

To combat toxic hustle cultures effectively, organizations must champion open communication, flexibility, and a supportive work environment. Emphasizing the importance of work-life balance, encouraging self-care practices, and addressing unrealistic expectations are pivotal steps.

In prioritizing mental health, organizations not only cultivate resilient, motivated employees but also contribute to a sustainable and thriving workplace culture.

As we navigate the evolving landscape of work, a balanced and empathetic approach proves essential in ensuring that success is achieved not at the expense of mental health but in harmony with it.



Santhosh is a Sr. Content Marketer with 2+ years of experience. He loves to travel solo (though he doesn’t label them as vacations, they are) to explore, meet people, and learn new stories.