As the U.S. workforce is implementing RTO (Return to Office) policies and the question of what the new ‘normal’ work/life balance will look like is up for questioning, we decided to make this #NoFilter series focus on the past, present, and future of the workforce and mental wellness.
Hustle/Grind Culture: What Exactly is It?
According to Lion’s Story about the subject, Grind culture is the idea that status is achieved by always being “on and available.” It’s the idea of optimizing your time working so well that you’re in a constant state of hustling, finding entrepreneurial endeavors, or working smarter (and in some cases, working harder) than usual.
It’s waking up and reading your emails before you even start your commute. It’s being the last person to leave the office at night, but somehow also the first person in each day. It’s unironically saying ‘Thank God it’s Monday’.
The Dangers of ‘Performative Workaholism’
“No one ever changed the world on 40 hours a week.” —Elon Musk, Twitter.
While working hard is always admirable, studies and articles have shown that this grind culture instilled into employees and, in some cases, encouraged by companies, ends up doing more harm than good for both parties.
Working longer hours shows a risk of contracting immediate and long-term health conditions such as stroke, developing diabetes, sleeping disorders, depression, anxiety and leading to burnout, which we’ll get into later.
Plus, it disrupts a lot of employee’s work/life balance and recovery time. If you’re overworking, you’re under-resting. You don’t have time to take those mental or physical breaks, invest in interpersonal relationships outside the office, or have time to make more mindful or financially beneficial decisions.
Lastly, it will eventually bleed into your work, leading to more mistakes, less work output due to fatigue, and a lack of feeling like you can get everything done.
All of this optimization in the current working generations has culminated in the dominant millennial condition (according to author Anne Helen Petersen), regardless of class or race or location: burnout.
The Result of ‘Always Being On’: Burnout
Like a light bulb left on for hours, at some point employees do need to rest and recharge. When they don’t, or even worse, they can’t, they experience burnout.
Burnout is the result of excessive and prolonged emotional, physical, and mental stress, according to WebMD. In many cases, burnout is related to one’s job, and even the World Health Organization cites it as an occupational phenomenon.
Many millennial productivity books and courses will focus on optimizing your workflow and managing your time better to avoid burnout, but as a few critics have pointed out, most books are written with the focus on working better but not balancing better.
During the lockdown, some workers felt like they achieved a better work/life balance with flexible working hours. As RTO policies are being discussed and implemented, now is the perfect time to question and create actionable changes to what can and will be the new normal.
Personal Well Being and Work/Life Balance
In a world slowly recovering from the pandemic, grind culture had a hard pause in the previous year as many workers who still had their jobs or were finding new ones had to adjust to a new work/life balance with more freedom of dictating what that balance is.
Lockdown and quarantines did add stress to the day-to-day, but a lot of companies and employees saw a positive uptick as a result of WFH (work from home) in various categories. And in turn, companies are considering different business models for their staff involving hybrid or full remote work.
Whether your job’s new policy is fully in office, completely remote, or a hybrid of the two, here are a few ways to keep personal well-being in balance with your work output without sliding into grind culture again.
Ask if You Can Change Your Schedule
If you have or started, a job working remotely and your productivity is the same, now is the perfect time to ask if you can have a hybrid work schedule.
After all, if you already proved you can effectively work remotely, it never hurts to ask.
Picking specific days to come in, attending in office for collaboration projects, or having different in-office hours if working fully remote isn’t an option is a conversation that can be brought to the table now with the WFH policies that were established last year.
Approach the conversation as if you’re asking for a raise or a promotion: make a case of the projects and achievements you have done, lean into how this benefits your manager or boss, and what your projection for the future is for the company if you receive this ask.
Make Digital Reminders And Stick To Them
If you have a hybrid or fully remote position, a way to keep yourself productive AND avoid burnout is to make digital reminders for both focusing and breaks.
Why? Because you can too easily slide back into grind culture by ‘just working a little more’ and before you know it, everyone else has logged off and you have eyestrain.
I personally like to use apps that incorporate the pomodoro method. It’s a productivity method that encourages taking short 5 minute breaks in between 25 minute work intervals. And then, when you have 4 pomodoros pass, you take a longer 15 to 30-minute break.
It is great for breaking up bigger projects and collating smaller projects, but also still incorporates breaks and thus, you have time to recharge and rest that’s in line with your schedule.
Invest In Your Interpersonal Relationships and ‘You Time’
Remember that you’re not a worker bee and that your job isn’t your life by investing, or reinvesting, in your interpersonal relationships. Commit to reaching out to one friend or relative a day, or coordinate and commit to a weekly activity you can look forward to after work.
Studies show that having versions of accountability-buddies in social activities makes you more consistent, similar to why you’re more likely to stick to a workout group vs. solo fitness methods.
For example, I started a virtual classic movie club with my friends where every two weeks, we hop onto a call to discuss the film someone suggested.
Not only do I commit to recreation by watching a film sometime during the week, but I also have another commitment with a social aspect that motivates me to log off after my work is done and my work hours are up.
I also like to watch a few ‘just me’ shows and created a commitment to watch at least 2 shows a week along with poetry sessions so that my brain can actually rest and recuperate.
Editor’s Note: I have been obsessed with Making the Cut lately, mainly because I finally have a fashion competition show that lets me shop the designers’ clothes!
The important takeaway is to make sure you have a healthy work/life balance by creating a life that incentives you to balance your time equally.
Keep (Or Start) Healthy Habits for Two Months
Accountability buddies are also great for workouts and other, healthier habits to implement and keep as you’re adjusting back into the office or working from home.
But why two months? Studies have shown it takes about 66 days to form a habit, with variations factoring the habit, the person, and other considerations.
Find a few habits you want to invest in that improve your well-being. Whether it’s nighttime yoga, or movie nights, or even a moment to just chill and listen to some music. The key thing is your well-being being the priority. Don’t feel pressured to monetize your joy, as many millennials feel in today’s world.
We hope that you Glossies stay safe, healthy, and hopeful for the next chapter of your work and life careers with this series feature.