When ‘hustle culture’ goes too far

“His room is between the closet and the ceiling. A wonderful little spot that we entrepreneured.”

Last month, I wrote a post about how Gen Z is realising that our definition of ‘hard work’ isn’t working for our society. You can read it here. I got an overwhelming amount of really thoughtful feedback. It was great. Thank you so much.

This week, I’d like to talk about another side of the coin — what happens when the desire to ‘control our own destiny’ goes too far: the dark side of Gen Z ‘hustle culture’.

Last week, a video of a 16 person (yes, you read that right) TikTok “mansion” went viral. The video has since been deleted. If you haven’t already seen it, you can watch it here.

At first, the idea of living in a mansion with 15 other friends sounds pretty cool. But it only takes a few seconds to realise that “mansion” is a gross over-exaggeration. It looks far more like these people are squatting in a dystopian war hospital — and reportedly paying $1,200 each per month to do so.

The video shows living rooms that have been transformed into “coworking spaces,” complete with cheap fold-out plastic chairs for that 12-hour rise and grind. There’s a security camera in the kitchen after some “issues with kitchen cleanliness” — presumably, they review the footage after each disagreement to figure out who the culprit is?). You can almost smell the place through the screen. Thankfully, we are spared any footage of what the bathroom looks like.

Halfway through the tour, he reveals that one of the members is paying to live in a closet under the stairs (it looks even smaller than the one Harry Potter lived in). Later, he describes someone’s living space between a closet and the ceiling as “a wonderful little spot that we entrepreneured”. Yikes.

(This isn’t the first time something like this has been posted on TikTok. In March, TikTok user @blueberryjuice2 posted a similar video of a ‘creator house’ for tech founders. It was less gross, but equally as weird. My favourite part from this video is the ‘standing desk’ that’s literally just a chair on top of a table.)

I can’t help but think about how these ‘hustle houses’ are essentially commercialised housing co-ops. Traditionally, housing co-ops were designed as a way for people to share the ownership of property and maintain affordable rent levels. Now, they’re being repackaged as ‘entrepreneur houses’ for young people who are scrabbling to make the most money and escape the rat race.

It’s not too dissimilar to ‘influencer houses,’ where TikTok and YouTube creators would pack themselves into huge houses and spend all day filming themselves to try and get more subscribers and viewers. Charli D’Amelio was only 15 years old when she joined the famous TikTok Hype House (she has since left).

Turned off by the idea of working for the man and collecting a paycheck at the end of the month, many young people are opting to erase the boundary between ‘work’ and ‘life’ completely. ‘Creator houses’ essentially epitomise how work is creeping into every part of our lives. You can’t relax after work if the only place you have to relax in has been morphed into a coworking space. And you can’t switch off at the end of the day if the couple you’re sharing your room with are arguing over how to optimise their pitch deck while you’re trying to sleep just a few metres away.

These houses do, however, fulfil one need that we’re all desperately craving right now: community.

Churches are no longer the social hubs they once were as religion continues to decline. Youth organisations are facing mass closures. Offices around the world are continuing to shut down to allow employees to work from home permanently. Finding a solution to our increasing feelings of isolation in a society that praises individualism is difficult — especially for those who don’t have the safety-net of a traditional job.

But I don’t think living in a cupboard in a permanent ‘co-working space’ is the solution.

I’m curious to know your thoughts. Would you like to live in a ‘creator house’? Why/why not? Send me your answers here or at aimee.pearcy@gmail.com. For more, you’re welcome to subscribe to my newsletter.