The “anti-grindset” is a counter-movement to hustle culture that emphasizes the value of work-life balance and well-being over the incessant pursuit of productivity and achievement. This movement recognizes hustling without any rest, leisure or appropriate boundaries for what it is: a sign of workaholism.
A new study published in PLOS ONE also highlights the concept of “work rumination,” referring to repeatedly thinking about negative emotions and experiences related to work. Such excessive or persistent work rumination impedes recovery from work stressors by keeping an individual in a prolonged state of physiological stress and ultimately leads to exhaustion, burnout and impaired well-being.
Here are two questions to ask yourself to escape the overwhelming pressure of the “grindset.”
1. Why Are You Unable To Step Away From Work?
Here are some reasons why you have trouble detaching from work, despite the negative consequences.
- Work-related beliefs. Many individuals learn to believe that working constantly adds to productivity, even though research shows that it only erodes it. Not resting enough often creates cycles of procrastination instead. Researchers also distinguish between having a “harmonious passion” for work, which involves balancing work with other areas of life versus displaying “obsessive passion,” which refers to an obsessive involvement with work while neglecting other needs. Many believe that being obsessive is the path to success, even though it creates heightened levels of distress. Another study found that workaholism often results from a rigid personal belief that one should continue working until they feel they have “done enough,” which exacerbates unrestricted and exhausting work habits.
- Sense of self. Often, an individual’s self-esteem relies on their perceived work performance. Deriving validation from external sources, such as one’s achievements, makes them more likely to disproportionately invest time in their work. Expectations of excellence rooted in one’s childhood or feelings of inadequacy from other areas of life can spill over into the self-appraisal of work performance, resulting in unhelpful comparisons with others as well as self-criticism, which fuels the need to prove oneself even if it is hurting them. Additionally, individuals who strongly view their work as a significant part of their identity are more likely to continue thinking about it after hours.
- Job Demands. Job demands pile on to the pressure to keep working. When an individual experiences role conflict or ambiguity, coupled with a heavy workload or conflicting demands and not enough time to meet them, it creates work rumination and drains their energetic resources. Workplaces with long hours, tight deadlines, the expectation of constant availability, limited autonomy and low wages also significantly impact an employee’s well-being. The prevalence of smartphones and constant connectivity through email and messaging platforms has made it easier for work to intrude into personal time.
2. What Needs To Change?
Knowing what to change is a crucial first step. Here’s how to start making these changes.
- Reframe harmful mental narratives. Challenge and reframe negative thought patterns that lead to overworking or rumination. Remember that your worth does not depend on what you do and that you deserve to rest.
- Set clear boundaries. Clearly define your work hours and communicate them to colleagues and supervisors. Stick to these hours and leverage technology to your advantage. Set notifications or use scheduling features to signal the end of your workday. Turn off all non-urgent work-related notifications during your off-hours to avoid unnecessary distractions. If you work from home, create a designated workspace to mentally separate work from your personal life. When you’re done, physically leave the workspace or close the door to symbolize the end of the workday. Understand your limits and be willing to say no or ask for more time and resources when you’re overwhelmed with tasks. Clearly communicating what would improve working conditions has been associated with being able to better detach from work later in the day.
- Create a wind-down ritual. Establish a routine at the end of your workday to signal the transition from work to personal time. This could involve activities like journaling, listening to music or engaging in a hobby that helps you relax or brings you joy. Make self-care a non-negotiable part of your routine. You can also create a grounding ritual to release stress by using emotional regulation methods such as mindfulness or deep breathing.
- Create a balanced routine. Establish achievable goals for each day and week. Break down tasks into smaller, manageable steps and celebrate your accomplishments. Intentionally schedule breaks throughout the day to recharge. Use this time for a short walk, stretching or other activities that help you relax and reset. A 2022 study found that experiencing positive emotions actually allows individuals to succeed financially, save and create more wealth through better money management practices, highlighting the importance of allowing rest and investing in joyful life experiences outside of work.
- Lean on social support. Research shows that cultivating a strong support network is beneficial for workaholics. Support both within and outside of the workplace provides individuals with outlets to share thoughts, needs and concerns as well as focus on non-work activities to recharge.
The anti-grindset advocates for a more sustainable approach to work, encouraging regular self-care and meaningful experiences, challenging the notion that success must come at the expense of personal fulfillment. While employees can make changes to their non-work hours, employers can implement policies that encourage boundaries and rest, take employee concerns seriously, provide resources for stress management and foster more supportive work environments.