The Problem With Grind Culture
In recent years, “hustle” and “grind” culture have become equated with drive, ambition, and success. The logic is that if you are not incessantly working, you won’t meet your goals. Grind culture also ties a person’s worth to the product they produce. However, it comes at the expense of individual wellbeing.
The fact is, hustle and grind culture can seriously damage long-term physical and mental health. Often, people don’t even recognize how toxic grind culture can be until it directly erodes their own wellbeing.
Grind culture is especially prevalent in the corporate world. For example, a Deloitte study found that employees and C-suite executives, alike, feel exhausted and stressed. Specifically, about 1 in 3 people say they constantly struggle with fatigue and poor mental health.
Regardless, leaders are far more optimistic than employees about how their organizations are managing this challenge. For example, while only 56% of employees think executives care about their wellbeing, a whopping 91% of leaders say employees know they care.
This gap is causing companies to perpetuate grind culture at the expense of everyone’s health and wellbeing. Over time, overwhelming work-at-all-costs environments lead to multiple unwanted outcomes:
- Increased stress, absenteeism, and burnout
- Decreased productivity, quality, and job performance
- Higher turnover rates
How can employers reverse this kind of toxic spiral — or avoid it altogether? First, let’s look at why workplace wellness is so powerful. Then, we’ll explore some ways that business and HR leaders can take proactive steps to squash toxic grind culture.
Benefits of Prioritizing Wellness
What is Wellness?
The terms wellbeing and wellness are often used interchangeably to describe a person’s overall physical, emotional, and mental health. But these concepts aren’t synonymous. Gallup explains the difference:
- Wellness is “a healthy lifestyle beyond acute illness” that is shaped by cumulative lifestyle choices and habits.
- Wellbeing, on the other hand, “encompasses the broader holistic dimensions of a well-lived life.” This includes physical, career, financial, social, and community wellbeing.
So, wellness is only one element of wellbeing — but it is a vital element. It’s also important to recognize that the various aspects of wellness are interconnected. In other words, if our mental, physical, or emotional health deteriorates in some way, other aspects of our health will be affected. Ultimately, this jeopardizes overall wellbeing.
The habits we adopt inside and outside of work directly influence our ability to feel good and perform at our best each day. And because most of us spend our waking hours on the job, employers need to prioritize workplace wellness and wellbeing.
The Business Case for Wellness
Employees who feel good physically, mentally, and emotionally are likely to have a positive attitude that fosters trust and collaboration – two hallmarks of a healthy work culture. But there are tangible benefits, as well. Primarily:
1. Decreased Health-Related Costs
Stress and burnout aren’t constant threats when you structure and manage work in a reasonable way. This helps employees find the necessary mental and physical energy to show up, concentrate, and contribute on a consistent basis. Certainly, it’s essential to offer healthcare support and personal time off. But happy, healthy, engaged employees don’t rely as heavily on these benefits. As a result, you’re likely to see fewer sick days, leaves of absence, and chronic conditions.
2. Increased Productivity
Employees who feel healthy, safe, and supported are significantly more productive. When people don’t feel overscheduled, overwhelmed, or micromanaged, they’re free to focus on doing their best during work hours. This improves efficiency, effectiveness, and quality — which together can elevate your bottom line.
3. Reduced Recruiting Costs
A healthier work culture leads to lower turnover. This translates into lower recruiting and training expenses that would otherwise be spent on replacing and onboarding lost talent. A culture of wellness also elevates your employer brand, which means you can attract and hire new talent more quickly, easily, and cost-effectively when the need arises.
How to Promote Workforce Wellness
Managers and HR leaders play a key role in guiding “grind culture” employees toward a culture of wellness. Whether your organization is big or small, everyone will need to be willing to help foster an environment where employees feel supported.
Here are 5 ways to replace grind culture with a healthier work environment:
1. Sufficient Paid Time Off
Taking time away from work is essential for mental rejuvenation. It promotes self-care and helps prevent burnout, which can be detrimental to individuals, teams, and the organization at large. Giving employees the autonomy to use their paid time off as they see fit demonstrates trust, which in turn, builds a strong employer-employee relationship and a healthy work culture.
To determine how much time off to provide, consider multiple scenarios: sick days, vacations, flexible days for caregiving or other personal needs, and an option for unpaid days when paid time off is depleted.
2. Flexible Schedules and Breaks
Although most businesses must operate during specific hours, the traditional 9-to-5 model is not for every employee. Consider scheduling that accommodates various personal responsibilities and lifestyles.
For example, you could let people choose their preferred daily start time — such as anytime between 8-10 a.m. — as long as they work the total required daily hours. By staggering start and end times, you can support different schedules and increase productivity. At the same time, your business can extend its hours of operation, which can improve your customer experience and top-line performance.
In addition, consider flexible break times. Some employees want a 60-minute lunch break, while others may prefer multiple shorter breaks throughout the day. Letting people decide how to allocate their break time isn’t likely to hurt your business. Instead, this flexible approach can boost morale, improve productivity, and help employees feel trusted.
3. Appropriate Equipment
Providing employees with the right tools and equipment is important for wellness. Whether they are working in an office or from home, when people have everything they need to function smoothly, they’ll be more comfortable and efficient.
This can include ergonomic chairs, dual monitors, adjustable desks, specialized software, or tools. Regardless, ensuring that people have easy access to the right equipment can reduce physical strain and mental stress, while promoting productivity.
4. Embrace “Work From Anywhere” and Flexible Hours
The recent remote work trend demonstrates that many jobs can be performed from anywhere. Offering a “work from anywhere” policy can reduce commute-related stress and personal expenses while giving employees an opportunity to choose the work setting that best suits their goals and preferences.
Letting employees work from home is especially attractive for parents who want to stay close to their young children throughout the day. But this kind of flexibility appeals to others as well. Many employers are finding that it dramatically improves job satisfaction, work quality, productivity, and retention.
5. Regular 1-on-1 Check-ins
Mandated check-ins by supervisors can play a pivotal role in gauging employee wellbeing. Project updates and deliverables are important. But it’s also essential to gather feedback about employee mental and physical wellness and work concerns.
By ensuring that managers regularly communicate with team members in a relaxed setting, you can help them identify issues earlier and address concerns head-on. It’s helpful to let employees determine the meeting agenda and remind managers that their mission is to listen and follow up on a timely basis.
Embed Priorities In a Wellness Policy
To demonstrate your company’s commitment, you’ll want to document your workforce wellbeing agenda and procedures in a formal policy. This gives the HR team responsibility for enforcement, support, and guidance as managers and employees navigate things such as time off requests.
Also, when these recommendations are formally documented, it ensures that employees won’t be reprimanded by managers or leaders who may want to choose short-term project deadlines or deliverables over employee wellness.
Lead by Example
Above all, for a culture of wellness to take hold, managers at all levels of the organization need to lead by example. It sets a positive precedent if managers take vacations, take sick days when needed, and show compassion towards team members.
Also, understanding that employee wellness isn’t a one-size-fits-all endeavor, it’s important to remain open to suggestions. By welcoming novel ideas and exhibiting genuine interest in collaborating with team members, managers create an environment where wellness is not just encouraged but actively practiced.
By implementing clear policies and fostering open communication, you can ensure that your most valuable asset — your employees — are happier, healthier, and more engaged. It’s an investment that’s well worth the effort.