Workplace: Escape the trap of burnout and hustle culture

The glorification of overwork hurts our mental, physical and emotional health

Mayank Kumar
Published6 May 2024, 08:00 AM IST
For many of us running on the hamster wheel, long working hours are a way out from boredom and emptiness.
For many of us running on the hamster wheel, long working hours are a way out from boredom and emptiness.(iStock)

We live in a world that is obsessed with busyness. “Hustle culture” has pushed a narrative of ambition driving relentless work, long hours, and constant striving as the sole path to success. This glorification of overwork is dangerous.

For many of us running on the hamster wheel, long working hours are a way out from boredom and emptiness. Even when we clock out from the office, we continue to work at home. But it takes a toll on our physical and mental health. Stress and overwork can lead to numerous health issues such as fatigue, obesity, anxiety, and depression. A recent study, published in the Lancet, found that individuals working 55 hours or more in a week have a 1·3-times higher risk of stroke than those working fewer hours.

Also read: The importance of small habits to power leadership

The negative outcomes are not just limited to our health. Paradoxically, when we chase success through overwork, it often leads to the opposite result. Creativity and innovation, the cornerstones of career growth, become stifled. Research shows that work stress exerts an impact on creativity by wasting an individual’s motivation, and cognitive and emotional resources. When a demanding work environment leads to very deadline stress, it can damage motivation and creativity. This, in turn, makes the quality of our work suffer with errors from fatigue and poor decision-making. The desire to learn and grow fades, as our cognitive functions struggle to keep up with the relentless pace. We become trapped in a vicious cycle.

Breaking free

The first step to break free from the trap of overwork is to shift our focus from the quantity of hours worked to the quality of efforts. Prioritizing tasks effectively, embracing time management techniques, and setting clear boundaries become essential tools to reclaim control over our time and energy. Learning to say “no” is not a sign of weakness, but a necessary act of self-preservation. By prioritizing sleep, healthy eating, and regular exercise, we are investing in ourselves.

Technology serves as a powerful ally in promoting a balanced and healthy lifestyle. With the right tools and automation, we can leverage technology to increase efficiency. Productivity-enhancing applications and automated processes alleviate the burden of repetitive tasks, freeing up valuable time and energy. What’s more, technology plays a pivotal role in fostering effective communication and collaboration. By honing our digital communication skills and leveraging collaborative platforms, we can streamline workflows, minimize misunderstandings, and maximize efficiency in our interactions. This enhances productivity and cultivates a supportive work environment.

It is time people stopped glamourising the hustle culture and embrace a more holistic approach to work. The worth of an individual should be defined not by their busyness, but by the impact they have on themselves and others.

Mayank Kumar is co-founder and managing director of upGrad.

Also read: How to disconnect during your vacation to reconnect

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First Published:6 May 2024, 08:00 AM IST
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