Is 'work hard, play hard' culture dead?
published 11/30/2021
Health & Wellbeing Flexibility Vision & Values


Whatever name it goes by — ‘work hard, play hard,’ ‘rise and grind,’ ‘hustle culture’ — cultures that encourage employees to push themselves to the limit are problematic at best. There’s nothing inherently wrong, of course, with expecting employees to show up to their jobs, or honoring hard work and dedication. But the idea that moving upward at work is a product of who stays the longest, who was in the office at the right time, or who had the energy to go to drinks with the boss after a long week is an easy breeding ground for bias and unhealthy competition.

Being able to ‘work hard, play hard’ is often a product of privilege

Unsurprisingly, being able to ‘work hard, play hard’ is more accessible to some employees than others. It’s easier for employees who have less to deal with outside of work — responsibilities at home or with family, commitments outside of their primary job, struggles with chronic health problems, and on — to seem like more of a go-getter. Things like generational wealth and strong family support systems (think: nearby relatives who are ready and willing to provide childcare or feed the pets) can also play a role in which employees have the time to volunteer for that extra project.

‘Work hard, play hard’ culture is anti-caregiver

Employees who are caregivers, including those who perform eldercare and childcare, suffer inside workplaces that boost employees who are willing to work overtime or catch up outside of the office for dinner and drinks.

‘Hustle culture’ puts a toll on employee’s physical and mental health

Even when they know it’s not good for them, many driven employees will feel pressure to push themselves to the limit if they think it will keep them employed or bring them the promotion of their dreams. This can mean employees pushing themselves to go to work even when they’re sick, or encouraging them to ignore their mental health. No one benefits from a burnt out coworker with the flu. 

Employees deserve to have a life outside of work — without being punished for it

Ultimately, we all know that excellent work isn’t something that can only be done by those who devote all of their time to working. Employees who have a healthy work/life balance can both perform their job effectively and are more likely to work harder than employees who feel they don’t have a healthy work/life balance.

Companies should never send the message that the amount of hours an employee spends in the office is worth more than their wellbeing. While employers will naturally benefit from employees who feel their company values their right to a personal life, companies will also benefit in the long run from having a reputation as a business with a moral backbone. Today’s working professionals, especially the most talented, will continue to have ample options. Highlighting your company’s opposition to the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality is likely to make you stand out more to employees than doing the opposite, and everyone will be better off for it.




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