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How Hustle Culture Has Spawned Burnout — And What to Do About It

Does your team wear long workdays like a badge of honor? Do people at your company not use their vacation time for fear they’ll fall behind? Is productivity valued over mental and physical well-being? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you may be in a workplace that glorifies hustle culture.

Hustle culture is created through a combination of both mindset and behavior. The prevailing mindset is that work comes before everything else, no matter the cost. In response to this attitude, people expend all their energy on their jobs, leaving little left for their personal lives. Long hours fueled by caffeine and passion for your career are glamorized in Western culture. However, this unhealthy dedication to work comes with negative consequences.

No one can balance sleep deprivation, over-caffeination, and unrealistic work expectations forever. Eventually, something’s going to give, and that is likely your mental health. Burnout is a form of exhaustion that is often caused by overwork. It can leave you feeling overwhelmed and emotionally drained.

People suffering from burnout often experience extreme fatigue and reduced workplace performance. They may grow cynical about their job and feel less inclined to interact with co-workers. Physically, people may begin feeling anxious, develop headaches, or experience muscle tension.

Since burnout shares many symptoms with anxiety and depression, it’s a good idea for sufferers to seek mental health treatment. This can help ensure they have the right diagnosis and are receiving the care they need.

If you’ve been working crazy hours and setting your personal health aside, you might develop burnout. To help prevent this from happening, check out the following tips.

1. Take Time Off

Everyone needs a break occasionally. That’s why companies offer their employees paid time off, but all too often, that PTO goes unused. Stop skipping vacation and take time to disengage from workplace tasks. By doing so, you’ll reduce your overall stress and improve your mood. This can help boost both your creativity and productivity when you come back to the office.

However, if you’re stuck in a hustle culture mentality, you may find yourself checking emails and answering Slack messages anyhow. Resist this impulse. Staying connected when on vacation prevents you from truly getting a break from work.

To help make yourself and your co-workers feel more comfortable while you’re away, create an out-of-office memo. This document should cover who will manage your tasks during your absence and note any important deadlines that are approaching. It provides your teammates with all the information they need to function while you’re out without contacting you.

2. Set Boundaries

Now that more people are working from home, it’s easy for work to creep into every moment of our daily lives. Answering a Slack message on a Friday night can quickly turn into a full-blown work consultation. Instead of being available 24/7, set boundaries around when your colleagues can contact you.

Before setting boundaries, identify when you’re comfortable being contacted. Can co-workers reach you after work hours, or are you only available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.? Are there exceptions if you’re working on a big project or closing a large deal? Are you off the clock by noon on Friday or available through Friday night? Answering these questions will help you create workplace boundaries that are unique to your preferences and your role.

3. Start Saying No

Hustle culture often encourages people to take on more tasks than they can manage. While you may be hesitant to turn down work opportunities, you’ll likely be doing your career a favor. Taking on more tasks than you can finish in a normal workweek decreases your quality of work and increases the likelihood of burnout. In fact, almost half of employees who experience increased fatigue cite heavier workloads as the culprit.

To help prevent burnout, you need to learn how to say no to tasks when you’re at capacity. If you’re assigned a task that you can’t turn down, set aside time to talk with your manager about priorities. Let them know that taking on this assignment means other tasks won’t get done as scheduled.

Ask them which task should be your highest priority. From there, identify activities that can be postponed or delegated to others to make room for your new responsibilities. If your team doesn’t have the capacity to take on more work, it may be time to bring in additional help.

4. Change Roles

If you’ve implemented the above strategies and still get the Sunday scaries, you might be in the wrong role. An extrovert may thrive in a sales role where they interact with people all day, while an introvert feels depleted. A creative type may love developing ad campaigns, while someone who’s analytical would prefer to look at data. Don’t assume that there’s something wrong with you if you dislike your job. There’s a chance you’re just not the right fit for it.

So how do you know if you’re in the wrong role? Start by making a list of all your strengths. Then make a list of all your job tasks. If you find that the majority of your duties don’t utilize your strengths, you’re likely in the wrong role. Begin taking steps to find the right one.

Hustle culture isn’t something to romanticize. Working non-stop can create a myriad of problems for both your health and your career. To protect your mental well-being and your work performance, implement the strategies above.

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