Keep Up the “Hard Work!”


Bernard Spragg

Society has tricked itself into believing that every little task is productive, and that they are too busy to take a breather – Courtesy of Bernard Spragg

Recently, I read an article in the Harvard Business Review called “The Busyness Trap”. It talks about how companies have become overly focused on working long hours, and putting a lot of time and effort into things, but not really producing proportional results. The article, in essence, is a call to action against “hustle culture”, and how toxic productivity is not only harming our society’s growth, but also the health of employees. 

Being “busy” has become a sign of achievement. It’s like we’ve shifted the focus from being able to produce results, to just doing them. This culture has become one that’s deeply ingrained into society, especially in the business sector. However, the concept of “hustle culture” can also be traced into one’s daily life. We often fall into the trap of thinking that we’re being productive because we’re constantly doing something, when in reality, we’re just wasting our time doing mindless and meaningless work that doesn’t contribute towards our goals. 

This idea can be traced back to something called effort justification, the idea that we find things more valuable when we put more effort into it. Effort justification also explains why, in a corporate sense, people work long hours in hopes of higher pay, even if they’re producing the same, or less, results as other people. But it’s not only the employees themselves. Many companies encourage their employees to work longer, because they think it will increase customer satisfaction and retention. In fact, customers have stated time and time again that they placed a higher value on things that had more work put into it. However, this leads us to delude ourselves into thinking that the most important things are the ones that take up the most time, leading to overworking without any real results. 

We should work on combating this mindset. First and foremost, we should all make sure we’re working towards some end goal, that’s clear and tangible. We should also make sure that the work we’re doing is getting us closer to that goal, rather than just something that makes us feel productive. We should also make sure that we are working in a way that keeps our mental health intact. In the corporate world, this can be done by making sure that employees are taking breaks, real, true breaks in which they completely disconnect from their work; additionally, those who are higher-up should take the initiative to model the right behavior: one with less of an emphasis on just busywork. In our day-to-day lives, we can make sure that we’re working hard (on the right things of course), but not forgetting to take care of ourselves. Additionally, an idea that helps employees stay away from becoming too busy is one in which companies build “safety nets” of sorts for them, essentially providing a leeway in case of emergencies (like an inundation of their systems). Similarly, we should build routines and habits into our lives in order to support ourselves on those days when we just don’t feel like doing anything. If we have set systems in place, we will ensure that we’re doing everything we can to help ourselves move forwards. 

We can see that the way corporations should deal with the “hustle culture fever” can teach us a lot about how we manage our own time, and combat similar mindsets of constantly being on the move despite producing no results. We should strive to make sure that we’re putting effort into things that are actually meaningful to us, and will take us closer to our goals.