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The Toxicity of ‘Hustle Culture’

Posted by Mike Delaney
on 08 Jul 2022

Anybody that has Instagram or TikTok will be aware of the hauntingly popular notion of ‘hustle culture’, which refers to people feeling pressurised to work tirelessly, without rest, and to be constantly making money and being productive. 

The irony surrounding this trend is that studies have shown constant internal stress and feeling like we are not doing enough actually leads to a decrease in productivity, as we have unrealistic expectations for ourselves. This causes burnout and, if we don’t rest our bodies when we need to, they will do it for us. 

With this in mind, we have analysed government statistics, along with surveys and mental health reports to determine which UK city has the most toxic attitude to hustle culture. 

Focusing on happiness levels within the cities, along with flexible working opportunities, salaries, workplace stress, work/life balance and more, we have ranked each location in our seed list out of an overall score of 70. The higher the score, the less toxic the hustle culture is, allowing us to shine a light on the importance of making time for ourselves and letting our bodies and minds recharge. 

Which cities have the worst ‘hustle culture’?

After trawling the internet for answers, we discovered that the city that had the worst work/life balance was Blackpool, with an overall very disappointing score of only 15.5/70. These numbers were decided thanks to an overall ‘anxiety’ score of 4.3/10, this low score indicated that many people were suffering due to stress and burnout. 

An alarmingly high 15% of people stated that they had mental health issues (scoring them 0.4/10 in this section), while only 6.88% of jobs were offering flexible working hours. As a city that attracts thousands of tourists throughout the year, it is no surprise that those working in hospitality, entertainment or retail are suffering from toxic hustle culture. 

Next up on the list was Nottingham in the East Midlands, with a score of 16/70 – surprisingly low for a fairly small location. A ‘happiness’ rating of 7.1, compared to other areas like Northampton with 7.6 or Preston with 7.7, contributed towards this ranking, as well as 13% of people admitting to having mental health problems – scoring them a disappointing 3/10 in this category. 

With the average weekly working hours coming out at 38.4 per week, one of the highest in the seed list, it is once again not shocking to see this area rank poorly for toxic hustle culture. Despite this, the city had an impressive score of 9.05% when it came to flexible working hours, highlighting that small changes need to be made to improve the lives of workers. 

In third place was Liverpool, situated in the North West, with a ranking of 17.1/70. Contributing factors included the average worker adding an extra 3.4 hours onto their day, scoring them a measly 1.1/10 when it came to working overtime. 

As well as this, it was reported that this location scored only 1.3/10 when it came to happiness, along with 3/10 when it came to the number of people suffering from mental health issues.

Martin Preston, Founder and Chief Executive at Delamere, shared his insight into how to avoid toxic workplace behaviour:

“One of the best ways to avoid any kind of pressurising talk in the workplace is to set your boundaries early on. Being honest and open is always the best option, especially in a new location, as other colleagues can spread the word that you are not interested in this type of conversation. It is becoming more acceptable for people to remove themselves from negative situations, especially if they are detrimental to their mental health.”

Professor Sir Cary Cooper, Advisory Board Member at Delamere: 

“Recent studies have shown that employees want their employers to offer perks or benefits that have a meaningful impact on their quality of life, rather than ‘quick fixes’ like bean bags and ping pong tables. These initiatives are a ‘nice to have’ but aren’t always a must. 

“Perks such as nutrition advice and work-from-home initiatives work as long as they are part of an overall plan to create a ‘wellbeing culture’ within a company. Without a culture of wellbeing, you are firefighting rather than solving the root of the problem. Initiatives need to be brought in strategically. 

“The case for a wellbeing culture is clear for business owners. Stress leads to less motivated people, and all long-term sickness leads to a loss of productivity that impacts a business’s bottom line. 

“First and foremost, employers need to be clear that they have the correct managers in place and don’t have a culture of forced long hours and uncontrolled emails. This is harder to manage while working from home and can lead to stress and eventual burnout.

“Another factor that needs to be considered is job security, following the uncertainty of the past few years. I would urge employers to foster a culture of open communication, especially where job security is concerned. 

“Going forward, employees want controlled autonomy over whether they work at home or in an office. Older people are more likely to want to be in the workplace while younger employees prefer a hybrid.”

The Industries With The Worst Hustle Culture

After narrowing down the worst locations when it came to hustle culture, it was time to turn our attention to different industries. Was the mindset worse in some jobs than others? Is there anything that can be done to prevent this ideology from continuing to make people unwell, or is this just the way it has to be?

First up and with the lowest score was the mining, energy and water supply industry, scoring a very poor 16.3/60. This took into account factors like health and wellbeing, which scored this kind of work 5/10. When it came to work/life balance, this industry ranked very poorly, achieving only 2.1/10 – highlighting that there is a lot of work to be done within these kinds of jobs to improve the lives of workers. 

The average working hours in this industry prompted a score of only 1.4/10, as an average of 35.8 hours per week were recorded. The level of workplace stress was as high as 51.50%, scoring this industry 6.4/10 in this category. As this kind of work involves elements such as water and energy, which are total necessities, it is unsurprising that people working in this field find it incredibly hard to switch off. 

The manufacturing industry was in second place, with a less than glamorous score of 17.7/60. A health and wellbeing score of 1.4/10 and a work/life balance score of 2.1/10 were very telling when it came to understanding the toxicity of this industry, as well as a 1.4/10 when it came to average working hours per week. 

In third place was the transport and storage industry, with an overall ranking of 20.7/60. This undesirable score could have something to do with the fact that union action across railway lines is happening right now, as a response to National Rail hinting at pay cuts and redundancy across the board. With many people blaming delays and cancellations on transport workers, stress levels are guaranteed to be high – with 52.40% of people in this industry admitting to feelings of overwhelming pressure. 

Martin Preston shared his thoughts on the matter:

“There will, unfortunately, always be more toxicity in certain environments than others. For example, jobs that involve direct customer-facing will, usually, be more stressful than those that involve no contact with the public. 

“Many people that work in retail and hospitality will be made to feel that something that was out of control was, in fact, their fault – all because they are the ones that are the faces of the business. In order to combat this, it is essential that employers across the UK work hard to involve themselves in the day-to-day runnings of their businesses, in order to let their employees know that the work is not falling solely on their shoulders. 

“It would also make a huge difference to offer more breaks throughout the day, so that people that have been sucked into the negative mindset of hustle culture are forced to rest for a while. Another helpful factor for employers to consider would be to put an end to messaging about work outside of working hours, to encourage the mindset that once the working day is done, the employees can relax.”

Which industries have the highest workplace stress rates?

Finally, we crunched the numbers on the industries that had the highest levels of stress among their workforce, and the results made for interesting reading. First up and with the highest levels of stress recorded, we had the accommodation and food services industry, scoring a worrying 57.10% when it came to employees reporting poor mental health. 

These results, sourced from lifeworks, a wellbeing consultancy, are to be expected in this kind of workplace. It was recorded that hotel workers felt a very high level of stress each day, which could be down to the high level physical expectations throughout the day, such as heavy lifting and hot environments. 

The same can be said for the health and social care sector, as this kind of work usually involves being on your feet all day, as well as helping people out of chairs and beds. What makes this worse is that this sector is notoriously underpaid, which is guaranteed to encourage very high levels of stress and pressure. Overall, this industry scored 56.30% when it came to stress levels, which is alarmingly high. 

At the other end of the scale, the industry that had the lowest record of stress was the information and communication sector, with a score of 47.50% overall. This is a fairly surprising result, as articles have highlighted that the constant need to learn and improve skills causes mounting pressure for IT employees. 

Also, as most jobs rely almost solely on computers and technology in 2022, any related problem could fall onto the shoulders of the resident IT employee. Despite this, the role does not involve much (if any) customer facing or intense physical demands, which could be why it came out as the least stressful industry in our seed list.

Martin Preston shared his insight on how to reduce stress in the workplace:

“Stress in the workplace is disastrous for many reasons, one of them being that burn out can actually lead to being less productive and making mistakes. In industries that deal with machinery or are based in dangerous environments, this could have catastrophic consequences. 

“Untreated stress and work burnout, which is made worse by the toxicity of gring or hustle culture, can lead to severe cases of anxiety and other mental health conditions – which could then, in turn, lead to an employee needing to go off work sick. 

The mental health of employees should always come first for a business, which is why it can be unprofessional and detrimental to contact employees outside of working hours or suggest that people work overtime for no extra income. 

“This kind of mentality contributes directly to hustle culture, and could lead to employees feeling that they have failed if they ever take a break. Keep all communication within paid hours, and try as much as possible to build relationships with your employees outside of work – this will allow employers to get to know their workforce as human beings with emotional needs, and will in turn make their employees feel more comfortable when voicing concerns.”


Which cities have the worst hustle culture? 

Taking a seed list of the UK’s most populated cities, we have uncovered which have the worst hustle culture, based on the following criteria: 

The industries with the worst hustle culture 

Taking a seed list of the most popular industries in the UK, we have uncovered which have the worst hustle culture, based on the following criteria: 

Which industries have the highest workplace stress? 

Taking a seed list of the most popular industries in the UK, we have uncovered which have the highest percentage of workplace stress, using statistics sources from Lifeworks

About the author: Mike Delaney

Mike crafted our innovative and person centred approach to addiction treatment. Mike’s experience in the addiction treatment sector encompasses his work as a nurse, psychotherapist and Chief Executive.

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