There’s frequently a worship of “hustle culture” in this, and many other, industries. You get told that if you work really really hard and do insanely long hours that people will somehow recognize you and you’ll magically get ahead.
It’s a lie and I think a lot of people are starting to realize it. The fact that every business journal has articles on “quiet quitting” and people refusing to work extra hours is a sign that this is both the case and that the people at the top are terrified of this trend because they’re working so hard to change it.
Working insane hours for someone else will almost never let you get ahead. In fact, it’s more likely to wear you down and encourage others to exploit you because you obviously don’t value yourself or your time. (Remember that we encourage the behavior that we allow.)
Sure, it may work on extremely rare occasions if you’re working for someone else. It’s more likely to work if you’re working for yourself rather than someone else, but even then, the odds are against you for a number of reasons.
In my career, I’ve literally seen people work themselves into the hospital or even into an early grave. I’ve honestly lost track of how many of my friends and coworkers have had heart attacks, cancer, and other health issues that were, at the very least, exacerbated by (if not caused outright by) the stress of working ridiculous numbers of hours and being “always on”.
I remember a coworker of mine being in the hospital after a heart attack and his boss visiting him, demanding to know why he wasn’t using the time to study programming instead of resting like his doctor ordered him to. I wish this was a joke or an exaggeration.
If you add in the people who have suffered extreme burnout or had their doctors literally tell them that their job was killing them and they needed to find someplace else to be, the number is even higher.
For my own part, my doctor was overjoyed when I left my position with a Fortune 50 mega-bank because of what it was doing to my health. She had reason to be happy that I quit. It’s left me with health issues that I will have to deal with for the rest of my life. Thankfully we caught them early, so they’re manageable with lifestyle changes, but the damage is still there.
As a result, I’ve gone out of my way to set healthier boundaries for myself. I’ve also worked hard to help set healthy boundaries and expectations for the other members of my team.
This is often more difficult than you’d think.
Most of my current team is in India. They’re a great bunch of people and I enjoy working with every last one of them. There is, however, a downside (as there is with working with any group of people).
Their work day ends at about 11am my time. This in itself isn’t a problem, though it does occasionally make it difficult for them to get access to some of our coworkers in the US. The problem is that they are a truly driven bunch of people (which is great and part of the reason that I love the lot of them – they honestly help inspire me to keep improving as well) and I have to make sure that they don’t overwork themselves (which is bad).
True story. I literally have each of them pinned on my Teams chat list so I can make sure that their status isn’t “online” well past their normal hours. I occasionally have to remind them to log off and go have a life if they’re working too late.
I’ve also had to check in with my onshore colleagues when they send messages well outside of hours to make sure that they’re doing alright, that they don’t feel overwhelmed with work, and that they aren’t doing too much outside of normal hours.
When leading a team (or multiple teams), it’s literally part of my job to make sure that my people have what they need. This includes having enough time off to recharge, be people, and live their lives.
If anyone tells you that it isn’t your job to be concerned for the wellbeing of the people who report to you, you have my permission to tell them to pound sand (using whatever level of politeness you feel is appropriate at the time). People like that shouldn’t be in leadership positions.
Work is not, and should not be, the only thing in your life. We are whole people who spend part of our waking hours working in order to be able to live our lives. And I think that we’re finally starting to realize that again as a society.
It’s long past time that this expectation of overwork stop, and the only ones able to stop it are us. Value yourself and those around you – especially the people that report to you. You help set the tone for what is expected and acceptable.