Mr Hague has said the UK needed to “reorientate” itself, when it came to exports, towards expanding economies such as India, Thailand and Indonesia reports The BBC.
But the British Chambers of Commerce said businesses were already “busting a gut” and the government could do more.
Labour said it was “ministers” who needed to “work harder”.
Mr Hague’s comments come after the coalition announced moves designed to boost economic growth.
The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, said he agreed with Mr Hague: “Government can’t create growth, it can create the conditions for growth but we’re only going to be able to do this if we all work harder.
“The world has changed and our competition has changed and I think the only way we can pull out of this is by us all working harder.”
But Labour’s deputy leader Harriet Harman has said Mr Hague will have “infuriated” people with his comments.
Interviewed for BBC Radio 5 live’s Pienaar’s Politics, she said: “Many businesses who feel they are really putting their shoulder to the wheel, feel that they can’t expand their businesses in the way they want to, because the banks won’t lend to them.
“The difficulty is if the banks won’t lend, if economic demand is flattened because of the government’s macro-economic policies, then people are going to be saying ‘well you should be doing your job as the government, not telling us how to do ours’.”
Mr Hague said in the Telegraph article: “There’s only one growth strategy: work hard
“And do more with less – that’s the 21st Century… We’re trying to rescue the work ethic just in the nick of time.”
He said the economy was undergoing “rebalancing”, with the private sector growing while public sector jobs declined.
“They should be getting on with the task of creating more of those jobs and more of those exports, rather than complaining about it.”
He also said that changes to benefits, such as the universal credit and a benefit cap, “will be seen in the 2020s as being as important to this country as the trade union reforms and privatisations were of the 1980s.
“This is as fundamental as that.”
Asked if his comments could be compared to Lord Tebbit’s “on your bike” message to the unemployed in the 1980s, Mr Hague said: “It’s more than that.
“It’s ‘get on the plane, go and sell things overseas, go and study overseas’.
“It’s much more than getting on the bike, the bike didn’t go that far. ‘Get on the jet’.”