‘9-5 is Dead’ or How Hustle Culture is Burning Us Out 

How many times a day do we say we’re tired before diving back into work?

4 min read

‘Hustle hard’ reads the bright neon sign of a can of soda, demanding I drink and therefore be the best.

Crammed in the metro, I eavesdrop on a conversation between friends. They’re talking shop and the girl complains about her long hours, saying she’s tired but it’s good, she’s hustling, it will pay off.

Even Elon Musk, in 2018, said you can’t change the world just working on 40 hours a week. Jack Ma’s 9-9-6 mantra, work from 9 to 9, 6 days a week was the talk of town very recently.

Push and work hard, the entire world around us seems to implore.

Chasing Productivity

I’ve definitely, non-ironically, said ‘We can sleep when we’re dead.’ It’s crunch time and if you’re not running you’re losing out. We’ve equated #workgoals and #productivitygoals with our entire lives.

Is it any wonder we’re all always bone-tired and talking about it?

Among much furore and clarifications, the World Health Organisation declared that while it’s not a medical condition, ‘burnout’ is an occupational phenomenon.

We’ve valorised exhaustion and Dr Samir Parikh, Psychiatrist at Fortis tells FIT that, “‘Give you 120%’ is a stupid statement. A car with a capacity of 100 being told to overextend to 120 will cause it to break down. It will burn out.


The rat race is passé", we now call it hustle culture. That’s cool right? Almost cool enough to disguise the crippling fatigue and ensuing mental stress we’re used to.

“9-5 is dead and buried in a museum somewhere”
Samir Parikh

How many times have we cancelled plans saying we’re busy? Even if we’re just netflixing, busy has a nice ring, it’s important. Being busy means you’re doing something worthwhile and not just wasting away.

Same game, new name.

But we’ve done it again. We’ve entangled our self worth with how many hours we’re logging in or how much output we achieve. ‘Rise and grind.’

The Slow Burn

All the signs point to something troubling that we know intrinsically – we’re neglecting our mental well-being and it’s costing us.

There is constant need to please everyone especially the higher-ups. People tend to bite off more than they can chew. Our system – be it family, education or workplace focuses a lot on ‘working hard’ instead of ‘working smart.’ There is a lack of focus on resilience development as well.
Havovi Hyderabadwalla, Clinical and Forensic Psychologist

Hyderabadwalla, co-founder of Mind Mandala in Mumbai, tells FIT that in the pursuit of productivity, we may be tiring ourselves before we reach that goal. “People should be taught that it is okay to take a time out or down time which nurtures productivity.”

Hvovi Bhagwagar, a clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, adds that, “Burnout happens in slow progression. It starts with a positive phase of enthusiasm and over-engaging with the job, and slowly moves into disillusionment, then mechanical work and finally exhaustion and despair.”

Parikh explained that in longer working hours, cut-throat competition, taking our work home, online entertainment and less physical/outdoor time, we may be fizzling out.

Besides, do you know your neighbour?

Parikh adds that now more people are living away from their home cities and often end up having a weakened social network, plus with the general trend of smaller families and a worse off support system, we are isolated and drained.

People have made huge mistakes at work by pushing themselves where companies end up incurring losses. The output at work tends to dip below average. Work burnout tends to have a domino effect on the other spectrum of your life social and personal. A lot of people end up with different addictions like cigarettes, drugs or alcohol to numb their emotional pain.
Havovi Hyderabadwalla

Who’s At Risk?

The young.

“Currently in Mumbai, there is a growing trend of students that I have seen that walk into my clinic especially from law colleges and architectural colleges where they’re experiencing burnout and depression by their second-third years,” Hyderabadwalla.

Also the old.


Dr Avinash Desousa, psychiatrist of Desousa Foundation, says that, “Burn out was a phenomenon since the 60s and 70s but it wasn't recognised, and if at all, only the physical symptoms of fatigue, gastric issues, cardiovascular diseases, joint aches and more were treated. Now mental health awareness has risen and we are looking into the psychiatric side of it as well.”


“Women with dual roles – who handle responsibilities at work and home tend to experience burn out faster than people with single roles,” adds Hyderabadwalla.

....but also men.

“Men show higher burnout rates especially in Indian culture where 'men are breadwinners,’" counters Bhatnagar.

“Both do at equal rates, but women are generally more expressive and connect the dots to the psychological symptoms too,” adds Desousa.

So everyone?

What your profile is or where you are working is not going to make you less vulnerable to burnout. Burnout is caused by socio-cultural, familial, media and technological changes and can hardly be pinned down to an individual issue.

However, Desousa adds that people with pre-existing mental illnesses are more at risk.


All Hope’s Not Lost, But Institutions Need To Step In

How do you know if you’re burning out?

“Productivity at work depletes. You tend to fall ill more than often. People around you notice certain unfavorable changes like your mood and temperament,”says Hyderabadwalla.

Parikh adds that you’re tired, uninterested and could exhibit physical symptoms. “From hypertension to diabetes, insomnia to substance abuse,” burn out manifests itself in many forms.

So take a break, talk to a therapist and look at your mental healthcare more seriously.

But Parikh says it may not be this easy. “Organisational values need to change, mental health needs to be a priority and measured as a business output. Like how countries need to measure their happiness quotient along with their GDP.”

Besides, no one is saying to not work hard. But try to do so in an opimum manner and value your recreational, familiar and phsycial well-being too. This has to be top down though, and industry bodies need to come together to value mental health.
Samir Parikh

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