Sustain issue #31 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)
We’ve discussed at length in this newsletter about how we as people have fundamentally changed through the pandemic and the implications of that on work. I know many of you may be actively trying to downsize your relationship to work.
But we haven’t exactly talked about what that means for work itself. Because of our pandemic realizations, the troublesome culture of work that has been building since the 1980s is quickly coming to a crescendo.
Hustle culture is dead.
How work got so crappy
In the 1970s, a company’s performance on the stock market was judged largely on its stable growth over the long run. As several financial crisis passed, companies were forced to cut costs in the way of layoffs and slashing benefits. But financial pressure only picked up so there was expectation to perform better with less. The good news was that technology was picking up which allowed workers to do more. And then our work lives fundamentally changed with the laptop and smartphone allowing us to do more at all hours of the day regardless of location.
If it could be done, why not do it?
Once time, in theory, opened up in the workday from tasks automated, there was more work waiting to pour in. The barriers holding back our job started to bend and quickly broke as the sheer force of work rushed in to fill all available crevices. The workday simply became the day. Prioritization became a relic.
Our markets, quite literally, run on companies creating increasingly unsustainable growth for its shareholders on a quarterly basis, nearly always at the detriment of workers. Many of whom now operate as contractors with few benefits, little protection, and no voice.
How hustle culture dies as the accepted norm
We now have the powerful dual force of the pandemic-changed person at all levels of seniority and Gen-Z entering the workforce speaking loudly to re-write the rules. Both groups, with fresh perspective, look at the way work has been done for the last 20+ years and say this can’t be right.
They scoff at working long hours.
They ask why busy is a badge of honor.
They can’t understand why we’re arbitrarily asked to sit in a chair for 40 hours a week (or more) when their to-do list of high-impact items was done hours ago.
They want their company to actually care about the planet and the diverse communities of people that live on it. Before they care about profits.
They’re not afraid to push back on the out of touch executive that insists on doing something the team knows hasn’t worked for five years. Or ever.
They don’t want to be won over with crazy compensation. They want time to live.
They laugh at the person that’s hanging onto the path they took as the only path to take. Working 80 hours a week and sleeping at the office to ‘earn your stripes’ leads to a definition of success they aren’t interested in pursuing.
This societal shift may take years to play out in the stock market and in the way work gets done. But you can bet that companies are having one of two conversations right now, 1) How do we maintain the status quo or 2) How can we change for the better.
History tends to favor doing the right thing and not hanging onto the way things have always been done. So speak up, and advocate for what you need and want. Your work is not your identity, it’s an activity that’s part of your life. Treat it as such.
At a sustainable pace,
Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?
Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to end burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) who suffered deep burnout and came back from it with no help of the hacky advice out there.
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