The tech industry is currently grappling with an ongoing mental health crisis that has garnered significant attention in recent years. The demanding nature of the work, coupled with long hours, high expectations, and intense competition, has created an environment where mental well-being often takes a backseat.
According to WHO insights, two out of five technology workers consider themselves at high risk of burnout, with 42% of them thinking about quitting their job in the next six months.
The prevalence of burnout, anxiety, depression, and other mental health challenges among tech professionals is alarmingly high. The pressure to constantly innovate and meet deadlines, combined with the fast-paced nature of the industry, can lead to chronic stress and a lack of work-life balance. Additionally, issues like imposter syndrome, isolation, and the stigma surrounding mental health further compound the problem.
The “rise and grind” era refers to a cultural mindset or phenomenon that emphasizes working excessively hard, often at the expense of personal well-being and work-life balance. It is characterized by a relentless pursuit of success, productivity, and achievement, often driven by societal pressure or the desire to meet high expectations. The term “rise and grind” is a play on the phrase “rise and shine,” implying that individuals need to wake up early and immediately dive into work, grinding through tasks and challenges.
While some tech workers make the hard decision to quit, others stay and engage in a faux-positive attitude. As very successfully Meredith Turits points out in her BBC story, with unemployment on the rise, to many a faux-positive attitude is a matter of survival.
Society plays an important role in promoting the idea that individuals should always present themselves as positive, upbeat, or optimistic. And employers very often value individuals who bring a positive energy to the workplace as they contribute to a positive company culture. This pressure to conform to societal norms in the workplace can sometimes lead to the adoption of a faux-positive attitude as individuals strive to meet the expectations of their employers.
Having said that, I love ❤️ how people want to share their “fake smiles at work” on TikTok.
It is not uncommon to witness individuals forcing a smile at work, denying or suppressing negative emotions, or excessively focusing on the positive aspects of a situation while disregarding or invalidating the challenges or difficulties, in an attempt to appear positive and to fit in at work.
“The more you’re seen as someone who truly wants to become part of the culture, the more freedom and leeway you’ll ultimately have to be yourself.” — Mark Murphy on Forbes.
Not everyone engages in or promotes a faux-positive attitude at work. In fact, many individuals and communities are working to raise awareness and create a safe space for open dialogue. Many have been vocal about the importance of redefining success beyond just work and advocating for prioritizing self-care over the glorification of work and relentless hustle.
The Hustle Culture promotes the belief that success and achievement can only be attained through long hours, sacrificing personal well-being, and being constantly “on” or engaged in work-related activities. It often emphasizes the need to work harder, faster, and longer than others, perpetuating a competitive environment where self-worth is tied to productivity and accomplishments.
Here are some individuals that have been raising awareness about the hustle culture and promoting a healthier work-life balance:
- Arianna Huffington (Thrive Global): Arianna Huffington is the founder of Thrive Global, a well-known platform dedicated to promoting well-being and reducing burnout.
- Cal Newport: Cal Newport is a computer science professor and the author of “Deep Work” and “Digital Minimalism.” He challenges the notion of the hustle culture and emphasizes the significance of focused, uninterrupted work and intentional use of technology.
- Jason Fried (Basecamp): Jason Fried is the co-founder and CEO of Basecamp, a project management and collaboration software company. He has been critical of the hustle culture and encourages a healthier approach to work, with an emphasis on work-life balance and uninterrupted periods of deep work.
- Anne Helen Petersen: Anne Helen Petersen is a journalist and the author of the article “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.” Her work sheds light on the pressures faced by millennials and highlights the need for reevaluating societal expectations around work and success.
- Jacinta Jiménez: Jacinta Jiménez is the award-winning author of “The Burnout Fix”, psychologist, and board-certified leadership Coach with a 20+ year career dedicated to the betterment of individuals, leaders, and organizations. Her book has been recognized by Business Insider as a top book to read about burnout.
“Smart work, like productivity hacks, are important, but there’s a missing piece of the puzzle,” Jiménez says on Fortune. “That is just taking care of our minds and our well-being.”
To address the mental health crisis caused by hustle culture in the Tech industry, companies take several steps to create a supportive work environment and promote employee well-being. Here are some strategies they implement:
- Encouraging employees to take regular breaks;
- Promoting physical well-being through initiatives like ergonomic workstations or gym memberships; and
- Providing mindfulness activities.
Groove introduced a 30-day pushup challenge for employees to start their day with push-ups. Tackling a shared goal helped the teams connect on a deeper level than they did in their regular day-to-day work.
And at OpenBet, we were frequently encouraged to take a break from our computer and stand up and stretch at our desk for 20 to 30 seconds.
As the tech industry continues to evolve and expand, addressing the mental health crisis has become a pressing concern, necessitating supportive workplace policies, open dialogue, and resources for employees to prioritize their mental well-being.
It’s important to note that the creation of a supportive work environment is a collective effort that requires collaboration across various roles and departments within a company. Leaders and managers have a significant impact on work-life balance within their teams. They can promote a healthy work environment by encouraging reasonable work hours, setting clear expectations, and supporting employee well-being. Effective leaders also model work-life balance behaviors and ensure that workloads are manageable and distributed equitably.
How can leaders and managers set realistic expectations and manage workload?
- Establish realistic goals and expectations for projects, considering the well-being and capacity of employees.
- Avoid constant overtime and unreasonable deadlines that contribute to burnout.
- Encourage effective prioritization, delegation, and time management to prevent overwhelming workloads.
69% of those surveyed in Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace Survey 2022 admitted to feeling “emotionally detached” at work. 19% said they consistently feel “miserable.” Employees who get enough sleep and have a life outside of work are more likely to be engaged than those who are overworked.
To read more about how Tech companies promote work life balance, Runn features a comprehensive article written by Masooma Memon, with examples from organisations that got it right.
As an individual I prioritize authenticity, emotional well-being, and open communication at work. As a tech worker, I feel that we continue to face an increasingly unpredictable environment, with “quiet-quitting” and huge pressure on employees to return to office. For workers, their manager is their most direct connection to company culture. To foster improved levels of job satisfaction, work-life balance, organizational commitment, and work happiness among their teams, managers must re-evaluate their priorities and job objectives, gather employee suggestions and feedback and plan balance-promoting initiatives. When this gets done, then the Rise-and-Grind era will finally come to an end.