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Is anti-work culture brewing among Gen Z?


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Is anti-work culture brewing among Gen Z?

It was a random conversation with a few of my childhood friends that naturally turned into a discussion of our future plans. Most of them outright declared that if they could, they would quit their jobs and start their own book cafe or live the ‘cottage-core’ lifestyle on a Swiss farm. 

The irony of us 21-year-olds chalking up our retirement plans struck me right then – when we were teens eavesdropping on adults complaining about their jobs, we were quite sure we wouldn’t turn up as ‘miserable as them’. Yet now, my friends, most of them 21 and on their first jobs are already dreaming of retirement. When I pointed out this irony, a friend chimed in, “I don’t think we hate our jobs, but who in their right mind would choose slogging off over relaxation?”

And I don’t disagree. We arguably grew up in the era of the ‘girl boss’ – when working on the weekends was encouraged and being a workaholic earning six figures was the way to be. But since the pandemic put a hold on most of our plans, many people, mostly GenZ who were on the verge of graduating and diving into the workforce perhaps realized that being a ‘girl boss’ isn’t a brag. Taking frequent breaks, knowing when to quit and setting boundaries is now working up to be the new normal – and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are miserable people who hate our jobs. 

In 2021, we went through what we now refer to as the ‘Great Resignation’. On social media, we made it a trend to quit jobs that didn’t provide us the satisfaction we needed. Reddit witnessed the rapid growth of r/antiwork, “a subreddit for those who want to end work”. We saw a rise in quiet quitting, ‘bare minimum Mondays’, Beyonce released a new song telling people to “release your job, release the time”. Couple this with the rise of the ‘slow living’ lifestyle and revenge travel – is it safe to say there is an ‘anti-work culture’ brewing among us?

“I definitely have noticed that more people our age prefer to work less”, Sejal, 22, tells me. “I mean, hating your job almost feels like a natural train of thought for an adult in any generation, but younger people now are setting clear boundaries I feel. Most days, we don’t feel the need to take on more work once we have finished our assigned tasks”, she added.

Since it’s unrealistic for many to simply remain unemployed, some are also seeking out ‘Lazy Girl Jobs’, which require minimal effort for higher pay. According to Dazed, this is a rising trend and many have taken to social media to share their experiences with jobs like this where you’re allowed to take as many breaks as you want and there’s no pressure to work overtime. The #lazygirljob hashtag on social media already has over 12 million views, with videos from self-professed lazy girls boasting about how easy their working lives are. And their comment sections are full of people asking where one can find such jobs.

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In the 12th edition of Deloitte’s Gen Z and Millennial Survey, they found that the majority of Gen Z don’t consider their profession as central to their identity. Other public surveys also confirm that hustle culture among Gen Z is essentially dead, and many aren’t as engaged with their jobs. Most come to work, do only what they should and prefer to have a social life outside of work.

Ritika, 25, feels the same way when she sees interns working at her office. She shares, “when I got my first internship, the advice I got most was to be proactive, do the work that is expected and ask for more — that is how you’ll make a mark. Even in Hollywood movies, I would often see the interns running around to get coffee for their bosses, staying in the office till late at night”. She added, “the interns we have today don’t care about smooching up to the bosses, most of them anyway. They log out at five on the dot and head off to enjoy their me-time”.

A friend of mine has worked what you would call a ‘lazy girl job’ for almost 6 years now, where his daily tasks essentially include sending out a few emails, attending maybe one team meeting a day and clicking a few buttons every 40 minutes. He works from home most of the week, and on Mondays, he goes to a lavish office building where he starts his day with a corporate yoga session. The job sounds appealing for anyone who’s leaning into the whole anti-work culture, but my friend spends his free time thinking of quitting. In his personal experience, it can get depressing – a sentiment echoed by many who have worked jobs that offer no challenges or growth.

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