Harris Poll Finds Hustle Culture, a 9-to-5 Hamster Wheel, Is No Longer Cool, According to a New Study

A recent Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice study finds Americans are prioritizing happiness, success, and meaning.

NEW YORK, May 19, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A new Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice study has shown that the events following the pandemic have caused Americans to reexamine their lives and reevaluate what is important to them.

The report reveals that Americans are seeing the twilight of the 9-to-5 Age and are welcoming the dawn of the Age of Reorientation. Findings show corporate culture to be taking a back seat to a new sense of self-identity. Introductory questions like what do you do for a living? are now seen as out of touch and mocked on TikTok by younger generations. As consumers shift their beliefs and life goals, they seek new brands to support them in this process.

The research showed three key trends that brands will want to understand to stay ahead of what's next:

Ambition 3.0: A shift from ROI to ROL (Return on Lifestyle)

ROL (Return on Lifestyle) has become the new ROI, with consumers actively shaping new identities away from burnout culture. Younger Americans are jaded by hustle culture with 66% of Gen Z and 70% of Millennials attesting, "I have been sold false promises around what will create happiness in life." Instead, fulfillment is getting a facelift with The Harris Poll study finding that 68% of Gen Z and 74% of Millennials are entirely redefining what a happy life means.

The Great Resignation is coinciding with the Great Reorientation, with personal ambition actively focused on quality of life. In other words, consumers zeroed in on building sustainable, supportive, and long-term plans to achieve personal happiness. 71% of consumers reported quality of life being "...determined by how you spend your time rather than how much money you make." Having a side hustle for money has become a hustle for contentment, as one Thought Leadership salon participant put it: "My side hustle is relaxing, playing video games, going on runs — not starting a company."

Energy is Today's Top Currency

Focus has shifted from money and time management to energy management. 64% of Americans now value energy optimization over monetary optimization. More time is not enough if mental and physical health aren't providing enough energy to be present. Americans are deliberately cultivating, protecting, and optimizing their personal energy, focusing on essentials over the urgent. According to The Harris Poll study, pandemic-seasoned Americans are now:

  • More likely to prioritize energy toward impact.
  • More likely to see meaning outside of work.
  • More likely to set boundaries to help conserve or restore energy.
  • Less likely to ask people what they do for a living as an icebreaker question.
  • Less likely to attach their personal identity to their work identity.

The study found that values are organically shifting from independence to interdependence. Perception of self and society is going from social relations based on utility to social relations based on community. Rising costs of necessities like childcare, up 41% since the pandemic started, are triggering many Americans to seek new community models to share the load.

The research paints a world where the community is a top priority, and where Americans will continue to innovate new ways of fostering, providing, and supporting it. Not all bad, the pandemic resulted in deeper respect and the need for honoring all contributors to respondents' lives, communities, and society.

"At the core of change, visions are formed and relationships are solidified," says Libby Rodney, Chief Strategy Officer at The Harris Poll. "There is a huge opportunity in the market for brands to understand their key audiences and build thought leadership around what the future of a well-lived life looks like, signaling support for consumers as they reimagine their lives, aspirations, and ambitions."

Life in Beta

Americans are more willing to jump into the unknown: they are living in beta mode, guided by the flexibility of intuition and acceptance. 61% say they are more comfortable now living between moments of uncertainty than they were pre-pandemic. 

While enjoying this new sense of freedom, they are aware of the need for existential anchor points to keep them stable and provide strength for future change. Optimism is becoming more grounded as 76% say, "Optimism today is more about being realistic than idealistic." In the words of one Thought Leadership salon participant, "Optimism shifted to be at peace with things that don't make me optimistic - a lot of beautiful, joyful things can happen at the same time as horrible things."

We are also seeing a return to traditional values of integrity, justice, and humility, outpacing flashiness, innovation, and creativity. With younger generations being especially likely to champion these grounded ideals, brands would be wise to consider this new shift in values.

About the Survey

This study is based on a custom survey conducted online and within the United States by The Harris Poll between April 7-10, 2022. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region, and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online. We also conducted salon sessions on March 24-25, 2022, which focused on what it means to live a well-lived life.

About Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice

Building on 50+ years of experience pulsing societal opinion, we design research that is credible, creative, and culturally relevant. Our practice drives thought leadership and unearths trends for today's biggest brands. We are focused on helping our clients get ahead of what's next.

Media Contact 

Madeleine Moench 

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