Colbeck Capital Management on Analyzing New Wealth: Why Are More Americans Exchanging Leisure for 'the Grind'?
Early in 2021, the team at Colbeck Capital Management covered the Working Conditions Survey published by Goldman Sachs on their Medium blog. The story was compiled by first-year analysts as they dissected today's working environment and the conditions surrounding current career paths. Upon publishing the survey, the analysts maintained that modern working conditions are more stressful and abusive in the investment banking field than that in the beleaguered foster care system.
Put plainly, continued deterioration in the workforce has become the norm, and nobody seems to be doing anything about it. In fact, according to some CEOs and human resource professionals, things are very much getting worse.
Working Harder, Longer, and for Less Money
While few people want to be lectured by Goldman Sachs on the conditions of today's working environment, their survey painted something entirely clear - today's workers, not solely in investment banking, are facing harder, longer and lower-paying experiences in the workforce. Not only that, but the expectation is that this is the new norm!
As covered by Colbeck Capital Management, CEOs like David Solomon are pushing for even more effort in the workplace. Solomon stated in an interview, "If we all go an extra mile for our client [...] it can really make a difference in our performance."
Ostensibly correct, Solomon's advice will fall on deaf ears for people who are already working 80+ hours per week. The idea of working harder and "going the extra mile" becomes not just unrealistic but downright dangerous to an already overworked labor movement.
In 1926, Henry Ford helped introduce the 8-hour workday. Since then, scientists and researchers across the globe have come to a relatively mutual understanding that this is the most productive and profitable schedule. Some studies show that 6-hour workdays are even more effective!
Abandoning Leisure - A Corporate Workforce Practice
Picture the rich and wealthy in America just 100 years ago. Your mind likely doesn't bring about pictures of suited individuals with their heads craning over phones, fingers tapping emails out at 2 in the morning. Somewhere along the way, even the wealthiest among us decided that leisure was right to be abandoned in the workplace.
As corporate leaders have moved away from leisure in their private lives, many businesses have chosen to follow suit. A multi-year study of investment bankers revealed that workers would undergo extremely intensive hours, even facing mental breakdowns, to accomplish their tasks. The results of this lifestyle are obvious and apparent: pain and suffering without the appropriate compensation.
We can even look at the physical layout of the modern office to understand the impact of corporations invoking overworking among their staff. The open floor plan so popularized in the comedy Office Space is a striking example of how the best intended office plans can go awry. Once heralded as a revolutionary design, the open floor plan is now shown to strip away privacy, prevent deep thought, and increase distraction levels for everyone on the floor. We can even look at fatal workplace shootings where employees were incapable of calling for help because their phones were not accessible, kept locked away during work.
Finally, as hours rise among average workers, companies are looking to better accommodate them - thus fulfilling an infinite playback loop. As workers spend more time at the office, workplaces are integrating more living services such as gyms, dry cleaning, kitchens, and even medical service areas. While these services directly benefit employees, they also further the efforts to keep workers at work. An anonymous workplace director said of these perks, "You just habituate them to being at work, getting all their needs met there."
The Rise of Hustle Culture
While corporations have their fair share of the blame for today's high-stress workforce, it isn't entirely of their own doing. Social media would help to develop something known as "Hustle Culture."
Even at the highest heights of capitalist success, the wealthiest among us are foregoing conventional leisure practices from yesteryear. Not only is it fashionable to overwork ourselves in today's society, but it is also almost expected! The rise of Hustle Culture would mean that millionaires relaxing by the pool on a holiday aren't even relaxing; they are typically on their phones networking, emailing, or scheduling meetings.
Originally popularized on the WeWork platform, hustle culture revolves around the idea that suffering now can pay for wealth later. Akin to "Rise and Grind," hustlers overwork themselves in favor of business sacrifice, exhibiting tendencies that we would otherwise categorize under the workaholic label. Incredibly unhealthy and altogether detrimental to our mental health, these issues are only exemplified by the constant connectedness of our digitally driven world. From smartphones to social media, availability is the top ability for young and old entrepreneurs alike.
One of the biggest offenders of Hustle Culture outside of Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson is Elon Musk, billionaire tech playboy and SpaceX founder. Elon Musk argues, "Nobody ever changed the world on 40 hours a week." With a powerful cult of personality and success identified by his efforts, it can be hard for people to shrug free from the potentially damaging advice that Hustle Culture inspires.
The largest problem with Elon Musk's mindset as well as that of today's hustle culture is how incorrect it is. Thomas Jefferson and Charles Darwin, two historically important names, both worked, on average, roughly 5 hours per day. Jefferson and Darwin treated their time like it was an infinitely valuable resource that should not be wasted.
Where Do We Go From Here?
As Colbeck Capital Management explored in their Medium Blog, a transition away from hustle culture needs to happen from the top down, starting with our white- and blue-collar jobs and the stress that they currently create. In the same way that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reduced physical danger by instituting safety standards, workplaces need to start prioritizing limiting hours worked while focusing on employee health.
An institution with overworked employees can quickly begin to struggle from toxicity. Toxic workplaces can cost employers and employees alike, both in time and mental health and wellness. If employers took time to truly understand the cost-benefit analysis of a toxic and overworked workplace, they might consider implementing more limitations on hours worked.
Ultimately, power is in the hands of the working class and the corporations that they operate beneath. While it may seem like a long way off from the institution of more labor-focused support policies, growth is exponential and can happen at any time. Less than 100 years ago, the 40-hour workweek wasn't even a concept that we operated under. Who knows what can change? For now, take breaks, drink water, and consider taking a vacation to reset your internal battery!