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Do you need hustle culture to succeed?

Even before the work-from-home era brought on by the pandemic, people stopped following the nine-to-five work culture altogether.

The startup culture brought in a new way of work — ‘wake up-hustle-sleep.’ 

Some even give up on the ‘sleep’ bit to make more room for ‘hustling.’ #GrindNeverStops

Performative workaholism has now become a lifestyle. One scroll down the LinkedIn homepage will make you feel that you are just not doing enough.

Slogans like “I have got a dream worth more than my sleep,” “Winners embrace the hard work,” “Good things happen to those who hustle,” and “Don’t stop when you are tired, stop when you are done,” bombard our social media feeds on a regular basis. 

This hustle culture is obsessed with thriving, being relentlessly positive, and glorifying the practice of prioritising work at the expense of one’s hobbies, mental health, self-care, and family time. 

A study by Harvard Business Review suggests that 79 percent of company CEOs spend their weekends working, and another 70 percent work during their vacations.  

However, there has certainly been a shift (if ever so little) in how people perceive work hours. The pandemic has highlighted even more than before how important it is to take breaks, breathe, and reassess your goals. Countless research articles point out that burnout is a real problem and one of its many causes is lack of rest. 

So, is it really necessary to work 14 to 18 hours a day in order to succeed?  Entrepreneurship 101 asked startup founders the good and the bad of following the hustle culture. Here’s what they had to say. 

The pros 

In a way, hustle culture promotes one to not just like their job, but also love it. When increased work hours lead to rewards and recognition at the workplace, it gives rise to a more competitive work environment. As a result of this pressure, employees start working harder toward their KRAs. 

Thus, hustle culture does lead to increased productivity and discipline, says Edul Patel, CEO and Co-founder of crypto investment platform Mudrex. 

On another note, Atanuu Agarrwal, Co-founder of machine learning (ML) based investment management startup Upside AI, says that in hustle culture when “You are doing so much, you end up breaking things faster and learning from those experiences. This iterative process can often lead to valuable business insights.” 

The cons

The most talked-about disadvantage of following the hustle culture is losing out on one’s work-life balance. Atanuu agrees and says that a toxic work-life balance ends up hurting both the business and one’s personal life. 

“Professionally, not everyone can hit a ball out of the park in every over. Similarly, not everyone can keep slogging at work on a daily basis. Most of them find it difficult and then bring in frustration and toxicity at work,  impacting people and the organisation at large,” adds Ravi Jain, Co-founder and CEO of PayCraft Solutions.  

In fact, working overtime can also slow down one’s productivity levels. The US Bureau of Labour Statistics suggests that an overworked and stressed employee is up to 68 percent less productive.

Additionally, one tends to lose out on quality time for themselves, eventually making people socially unavailable and unemotional. In fact, another study by the American Journal of Industrial Medicine found that people who worked between 61 to 70 hours a week, had a 42 percent higher chance of coronary heart disease.

The chances rise up to 63 percent in people who work between 71 and 80 hours a week. 

Image source: Shutterstock

Balancing the two 

Entrepreneurs can expect their employees to be just as productive by finding the right balance between work and fun. 

First and foremost, startup founders should stop trying to attain all the goals all by themselves. That is, a founder should not aim to do everything on their own. Effective delegation goes a long way when trying to achieve productivity without having to adopt the hustle culture. Founders should thrive to hire the right minds and distribute work according to each individual’s expertise. 

Secondly, entrepreneurs should prioritise having downtime – not just for themselves but for everyone else working in the startup. “I strongly believe that the best ideas only come to an ideal and relaxed mind,” says Atanuu. 

Thirdly, allowing employees flexible work hours can also help them be more productive without having to spend all day at work. Flexible work hours allow employees to figure out the best time to work for them and plan their day accordingly. 

Fourthly, Ravi believes that a startup’s appraisal system should start evaluating employees, not on their efficiency or hour metric. Companies should use the quantum of work employees do to evaluate them. 

Finally and most importantly, entrepreneurs should prioritise their employees first. “Talk to your employees about their objectives and decide what you can help them with,” says Edul. 

Summing up 

Startups bet on cut-throat, high-pressure culture to drive financial success. This hustle culture pushes employees to increase their productivity.

However, it also comes with the hidden costs of compromised mental wellness and work-life balance.

Given everything it stands for, Atanuu does not approve of hustle culture. Especially with respect to the industry his company operates in, “It is really important for us to be calm and collected, rather than frenzied. I believe in what I call the “Dhoni model of entrepreneurship” – doing a million things at the same time or being overly aggressive is probably not going to win you the ultimate prize.” 

Similarly, at Mudrex, Edul believes in achieving professional and personal goals together. He is of the opinion that hustle culture hinders overall growth, damages mental health and affects personal relationships. 

To read other articles on Entrepreneurship 101, click here.

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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