The glorification of long working hours has become a dangerous trait among tech employees.

“The glorification of long working hours, known in America as “hustle porn”, has become a dangerous trait among tech employees that is putting people’s mental and physical health at risk,” so warns the co-founder of Reddit, Alexis Ohanian.

Speaking at the annual Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Mr. Ohanian criticised the spread of a working culture that he said stems from tech startups and companies in Silicon Valley.

The 35-year-old entrepreneur, who now heads the early stage venture capital firm Initialized Capital, said it was common practice among tech workers to fetishise long working hours – something he admits to doing in the early days of Reddit.

“We’re all so busy”

Do you often send messages like these?

“Sorry, just don’t have the time to meet for drinks.”

“Will get back to you when I have time mum”.

“No, sorry can’t go out with you this week, too busy”

“The gym? are you kidding me, working!! maybe next week.”

“I was working till late last night, it was important work. Needed to be done.”

This sort of lifestyle, say experts, makes us feel ambitious, successful and important. But the reality is it can be dangerous for our health and wellbeing, both physical and mental.

“Hustle porn is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in the tech industry right now.”

Blaming tech start-ups and companies in Silicon Valley for the ‘fetishisation’ of long working hours, Alexis Ohanian said: –

“Hustle porn is one of the most toxic, dangerous things in the tech industry right now. And I know so much of it comes from the States. It is this idea that unless you are suffering, unless you are grinding, unless you are working every hour of every day and posting about it on Instagram, you’re not working hard enough. It’s such bullsh*t, such utter bullsh*t.”

He continued: -“Believe me I know, the to-do list is long. There are so many things that you want to be doing, that you can be doing, there’s another event to go to, there’s a meetup, there’s a client to talk to, there’s an engineer you have to close. There’s so much happening that you need to become ruthless at prioritising your schedule.”

“I see so many founders who don’t appreciate and properly value their time, and that is to say there are infinite things you could be doing… the more successful you are, the more things you will have nipping for your attention.”

“This one is personal, health not hustle. I don’t know how much of a problem you all have with hustle porn here in Europe, is that a thing in the European startup community: hustle porn? Or is that a uniquely American phenomenon?”

‘Hustle Porn’ damaging to companies as well as workers.

He went on to explain how this type of work ethic is damaging for both the company the person works for and the person’s general wellbeing.

Earlier this year, Mr. Ohanian explained how he had become a workaholic after founding Reddit in 2005 as a way of coping with his depression.

“As entrepreneurs, we are all so busy ‘crushing it’ that physical, let alone mental health, is an afterthought for most founders,” he wrote.

Take care of yourself because you’re not getting uploaded to the cloud anytime soon.

Take care of yourself because you’re not getting uploaded to the cloud anytime soon. And when things do get hard, which they will, you especially need to prioritise your well-being.”

“But can you really die from overwork?”

Ohanian’s stark warning comes amid a growing awareness about the health impacts of a 24/7 work ethos. Earlier this year, data released by CV-Library found that almost half of Irish workers feel that elements of their work have made them feel anxious or depressed.

A separate study published in an American Association for Cancer Research journal found that long-term night shift work among women increased the risk of cancer by 19%.

Meanwhile, Stanford professor Jeffrey Pfeffer believes the workplace is the fifth-leading cause of death in the US – ahead of Alzheimer’s and kidney disease.

Silicon Republic says “there has even been pushback in recent years against top tech companies offering perks such as free dinners in the evening, with many accusing such temptations as a ruse to keep employees working longer hours”.

Many in the West are looking nervously towards Asia, where the number of employees literally working themselves to death has skyrocketed in recent years.

Japan recognised death by ‘overwork’ as a social issue in 1987.

Several countries including China and Japan, which officially recognised death by overwork as a social issue in 1987 following a string of high-flying executive deaths, have specific words to describe the phenomenon and a recent white paper found that as many as one in five employees were at risk.

In most developed countries, overwork is not seen as a public health problem. However, death from overwork is common enough in Japan that there is a word for it: karōshi.

Japanese corporate workers, or salarymen, have a tradition of lifelong job security. Unfortunately for them, the trade-off is that they are expected to log long hours of unpaid overtime. Workaholism is so bad that Japan’s government has considered imposing a mandatory five-day annual holiday.

In China, death from overwork, known there as guolaosi, is also said to be widespread.

Last month South Korea became the latest county to introduce new legislation aimed at curbing excessive working hours and helping employees strike a better work-life balance.

However, a similar law introduced by Tokyo several years ago has been largely ineffective, with work-related deaths continuing to exceed 1,000 a year.

What are the effects on the health of tech workers?

While technology has simplified the way we perform day to day activities, it also allows us to be constantly plugged in, meaning we never really leave the office.

Working late once in a while to finish a project or deal with an emergency is understandable and doesn’t negatively impact your health.

However, routinely working lat at the office or at home, chronic overworking, can have many severe, negative impacts on your health, relationships, happiness and overall quality of life.

Overworking is not only a problem for employees. Overworking can have negative impacts for employers too.

It impairs your sleep.

A side effect of overworking such as added stress, staring at the computer for too long or lack of time to unwind, all negatively impact your sleep. Chronic sleep loss raises the risk of many illnesses such as heart disease and obesity and also has short term effects on your memory.

It’s bad for business too.

More input doesn’t mean more output’

When overtime becomes ‘all the time; longer work hours don’t always equate to higher productivity.  In fact, one study found that in an 8 hour work day most people are the most productive between the hours of 2 and 6 and by hour 9 fatigue sets in and productivity levels drop

You’re more likely to make mistakes.

Overworking makes it much harder to perform usual work tasks, such as making judgement calls, reading people and managing emotional reactions.

The bottom line.

Sometimes working long hours can feel rewarding, especially when you finally finish that project you’ve been working on for weeks.  But we make a habit out of overworking we feel stressed, upset and experience an unhealthy work-life balance.

So, next time you feel you don’t have time to take time out, socialise with friends, go for a run or call home, you might want to think again. Keeping yourself well in mind and body will make you happier and healthier and quite possibly make us better at our jobs.

 

Koypo Labs