Is there a growing distaste for corporate culture?

Posted by Flux on 

7 February 2024

What’s trending?

There’s a growing movement, particularly in the first world, of people rejecting corporate culture, the notion of working overtime and in many instances, being underpaid. This ‘anti-work’ sentiment is gaining momentum. The term ‘lazy girl jobs’ was coined earlier this year by Gabrielle Judge, also known as @antiworkgirlboss on TikTok. It refers to jobs that offer minimal stress and fair pay. It isn’t about shirking hard work but rather about setting boundaries to enable a work-life balance. “Employees are seeking more work-life balance and are not as willing to “overdeliver at work in a way that risks compromising their well-being and personal life”, said Montréal-based career coach Tiffany Uman. The idea of ‘lying flat’, or tang ping in Chinese, is a lifestyle and social protest movement against the culture of overwork. It promotes the idea of pursuing a slower-paced life. ‘Quiet quitting’ refers to employees putting in the least amount of effort to keep their jobs, and not going the extra mile for their employer. ‘Bare Minimum Monday’ encourages workers to do the minimum required work on Mondays so that they feel less anxious on Sunday evenings. The ‘jobless employed’ are individuals who seemingly do little to no work yet manage to remain employed. ‘Financial Independence, Retire Early’ (FIRE) is a movement of people who embrace a frugal lifestyle and maximise their savings so they can afford to retire sooner rather than later.

Why is it important?

On the surface this trend appears to be about people shunning hard work. However, it is more about redefining what employment means. “When we come into contact with life-threatening events, we tend to… consider whether we are happy with our lives or whether we would like to make changes to them. The pandemic forced [people] to take stock of their lives and gave them the opportunity to reimagine it,” says Texas A&M university management professor Anthony Klotz. While in the long term this may lead to a society that prioritises work-life balance, in 2021, investment bank Goldman Sachs warned that the ‘anti-work’ movement may pose a long-term risk to labour force participation. If more younger people choose to stay out of the workforce, this deprives organisations of the rapid innovation that they bring. A more assertive workforce could also translate into more strikes and other labour movements. It could also lead to dissatisfaction and frustration among other employees who may feel their hard work is undervalued.

What can businesses do about it?

Change is afoot and businesses need to take heed of this shift in attitudes towards work. According to a Citrix 2022 survey, 29% of employees would consider leaving their job and/or start looking for a new job if flexibility is not offered or to gain more flexibility. Hybrid work arrangements will address this strong desire for flexibility. A 2022 survey of 15,000 workers across 15 countries by McKinsey Health found that a quarter of employees experienced burnout symptoms. Dissatisfied individuals make for disengaged and unproductive employees, leading to high rates of attrition. Implement policies to limit overwork and prevent burnout, such as setting reasonable working hours, monitoring workload, and encouraging employees to take breaks and vacation time. Businesses must prioritise mental wellbeing in order to retain their employees by providing resources like counselling services, wellness programmes, and time off for self-care. Fair compensation is also crucial. Working overtime without compensation is becoming increasingly unacceptable. Engage in open and transparent communication with employees to understand their concerns and needs. Conduct surveys, one-on-one meetings, or focus groups to gather feedback. By taking proactive steps to address some of the concerns raised by the anti-work movement, you could improve employee satisfaction, foster a positive work environment, and build a better reputation in the community.

Since our last observation on this topic, there have been several developments. This observation is an update of the previous Anti-work movement one.

By Faeeza Khan

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Image credit: Anderson W Rangel 

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