Hustle culture – How to stop your employees burning out

As human beings we’re naturally competitive. 

We might not have the speed of Usain Bolt, or be tech titans in jobs like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos – but as a race, we’re naturally hungry for more. 

But one thing we do have in common, we all want to succeed in the world of work. 

Hustle culture; aka; burnout culture or toxic productivity. 

You may have heard this term knocking about a bit over the last couple of years – or if you haven’t, you just might be part of the reason hustle culture has become such a thing. 

But what is it? 

Hustle culture is essentially constant working. It omits any work-life balance, and your job, well, it becomes your whole life. There’s no off button. No down-time. Think less 9-5 and more 24/7 on call. Think coffee by the truckload and ooo you might manage to squeeze in one lunch break every three months. 

So where did it all originate? 

You might remember the doom and gloom of the Great Recession in 2008. Yep. Pretty bleak. Overworking became a necessity back then to survive the tough economic and recruitment climate. 

Think of it like survival mode. If you feel threatened, under attack or vulnerable – you’re going to want to take some control over that. Well, that’s when hustle culture was born. 

At the time of the Great Recession, millennials were just dipping their toes into the world of work, and just building their careers, so naturally, overworking was seen as the only way to climb the ladder in such a competitive world. 

Businesses and recruiters were very much in the driving seat when it came to talent acquisition – as job seekers were merely craving stability and some form of a ladder to get themselves on and (eventually) climb. 

And while drive, ambition and efficiency are all good qualities – when practiced to the extreme – they become dangerous for both employees and employers. 

Overworking not only spreads an unhealthy culture, where it’s assumed it’s expected to do this in order to climb in the company, but it’s also counterproductive. 

You might think more hours = more output, but actually, we don’t work like that. 

If you’re overworked and face burnout and exhaustion, you’ll end up achieving less than what you aimed for. 

Fast forward to 2022, and the surge in influencers and glamorised lifestyles portrayed on social media over the last few years has kept millennials even hungrier for success.

And as a very rich man (ehem, Elon Musk) famously tweeted, “Nobody ever changed the world in 40 hours a week.” Just to add some burnout fuel to the fire.

So how can you overcome hustle culture in your business, while still motivating your team to do great work? 

Talk to your team.

It really is the best place to start. You might be sitting reading this thinking ‘yeah, but my employees are okay, they’re happy, they don’t seem remotely burnt out’. 

Well, according to a 2022 workplace study by Edenred, 14% of employees said they left their jobs due to feeling overworked, or there was no sense of care from management about their wellbeing. 

For a lot of businesses, it comes as a shock when someone decides to leave a job, so don’t wait until that point of regrettably losing talent. Talk to your team. People will hide things very well on the surface. Ask your team for suggestions on improving a work-life balance. What would they like to see improve or change? 

Not everyone will feel comfortable doing this face to face, so an anonymous form could be a good starter for ten. Then following that, bringing your team together in a safe space on neutral ground for a loosely structured away day could help to kickstart a discussion around different workplace topics. 

This will give you actionable insights to work on with your team, with the aim of creating a more balanced workplace and a truly talented team, where employees will feel valued, heard and respected. Most importantly, they won’t feel guilty for switching off or sticking to working hours. 

This might mean; 

  • Reconfiguring your structure
  • Overhauling your people or 
  • Reviewing your progression paths

But it will all help to keep your workforce strong, well placed and set you well on your way to achieving your short and long term business goals. 

So think you need to review your talent strategy, or restructure your workforce? 

Or simply want to know more about what we do, or how we might be able to help? 

Drop us an email at 

We’ve got you covered! 

Luke Richardson

A highly experienced recruitment leader with a background in regulated, consumer facing financial organisations, broadcasting and media, tech start-ups and hospitality.

A serial hobbyist, lover of animals and the go-to person when looking for an “out there” idea or solution.
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