I wrote at the beginning of the summer about how the pandemic heightened the negative effect hustle culture was having on business was heightened by the pandemic. This made it even more essential for Americans to break the cycle of willingly overworking themselves. With summer wrapping up, I'd like to reveal how individual companies can eradicate the very notion of hustle culture from their premises.
While my direct experience is predominantly with small businesses, these suggestions can work with any business in any industry. While similar articles may read like a growth hack for your company, my purpose here is not just as business advice, but as a rational plea for how we as CEOs and executives can make our employees' lives better. Yes, happier employees translate to less turnover and stronger performance, but we should value our staff's well-being primarily on a humanistic level.
1. Agree on what a "good workday" is
This will vary from person to person, as everyone's situation is different, but you need to set an individual track for employees that embraces quality and sustainability over quantity and busyness. Communication is the key to this, but what to communicate can be tricky.
The best baseline is for the manager and employee to agree on a basic blueprint for what that employee's typical workday looks like. This is not simply a list of tasks or a number of hours, as research shows no one is actually productive eight 8 hours a day, and working long hours is counter-productive.
A blueprint should establish breaks, task progression, and general availability so the employee can maintain their sense of well-being and stay off autopilot. An official document, this is not. Nor is it a justification for firing someone because they had a few lackluster days or weeks. This is a long-term vision--, a compromise showing what you both reasonably understand they are capable of doing.
2. Vacation time for everyone
America has infamous vacation day policies. National averages are well below nearly every other Western society. A, and although startups and newer companies have begun offering more vacation days recently, trepidation around the topic still exists.
This is evident from the failed "unlimited vacation days" experiments some companies have tried over the past decade, which have made workers scared to actually utilize the perk. "There's a huge amount of anxiety about not knowing the limit ... Is it okay to take 35 days? ... Where should I draw the line?' Because the reality is that it's not actually unlimited," noted Ben Gately, COO of a software firm.
To avoid confusion, set a number of days--at least 20--for each employee, encouraging maximum flexibility. In addition, designating a week during the year when the business will close and employees will get paid time off without needing to use vacation days--a useful practice from the restaurant industry--guarantees even those hesitant to take a vacation will get a break.
3. Lead by example
Having positive policies on paper means nothing if people aren't taking advantage of them, and most employees will always be cautious about getting too comfortable until they see no one is judging them for it.
If you want your staff to have a work-life balance, you can't put in constant 12-hour days. If your business closes at 6:00, you can't linger until 7:00, because your staff will be apprehensive about leaving early. Buying ping-pong tables and setting up nap rooms sounds great in theory, but if executives aren't smashing forehand drives and plopping down on bean bag chairs during work hours, the gesture won't be effective.
In a hyper-competitive culture like the United States of America, fear is too great a motivator for why people overwork themselves. If you genuinely want staff to relax and prioritize their own well-being at work, you need to show yourself doing so first.