The pandemic changed a lot of things for a lot of people. The facet of our lives that experienced the biggest upheaval was arguably the world of work: for those working in the knowledge economy––aka many office jobs––the change was rapid and dramatic.
From five full days a week in the office and all that entailed along with early rising, commutes, expensive (and often disappointing) lunch salad options and oh, go on, just another takeout coffee, it’s not surprising that so many of us, exposed to a new reality, decided we really liked it.
We saved money, we saved time, we had the flexibility to decide our own schedules––and we still got the work done.
Remote work = happiness
A Tracking Happiness survey from 2022 found that having the ability to work remotely increases employee happiness by as much as 20%, and that––surprise!––going back to the office reduces that happiness.
Additionally, workers’ happiness goes down as commute times increase, and in non-news, the study also identified that when people are happy at work, it correlates to their overall life satisfaction. The research also identified that Millennials are happiest when working remotely.
This year, FlexJobs research has found that 65% percent of workers want to work remotely all the time, with 32% preferring a hybrid model. New research has also identified that 57% of Gen Z wants to be in the office, the highest across all generations. It is a figure that can be attributed in part to the fact that this early-career cohort wants and needs face-to-face interactions to help them learn and grow their careers.
Wrangling over where work gets done and when is just one side effect of the paradigm shift the Covid-19 crisis has had on work. From 2020 onwards, workers globally began to experience burnout as the effects of endless video calls, lack of in-face interactions, and unstructured working days began to bite.
The World Economic Forum (WEF) declared 2020 as a “record year for feeling stressed at work”. It said that 43% of people from over 100 countries experienced workplace burnout, an increase from 39% in 2019.
McKinsey and Company declared that workers were experiencing “the great exhaustion”. Soon after, we began to hear about the “Great Resignation”, where swathes of American workers quit their jobs. Around 47.8 million quit in 2021, and another 50.5 million people left their jobs in 2022.
Burnout, lack of engagement, overwork were all factors in resignations. “Quiet quitting” became the ultimate expression of how many workers were feeling. Stressed, overworked, under-resourced and plain bored, many sat back and did the bare minimum required to collect their paycheque.
Enter the lazy girl job
This year, content creator Gabrielle Judge coined the phrase “lazy girl job” in a TikTok video lasting two and a half minutes. The concept soon exploded on the platform, and now, the #lazygirljob TikTok hashtag has more than 17 million views.
Judge explained the concept as follows. “A lazy girl job is basically something you can just quiet quit […] there’s lots of jobs out there where you could make, like, 60 to 80 K and not do that much work and be remote.”
The concept of a lazy girl job is less about it being taken literally, and more about shining a light on how hustle culture and oppressive workplace tactics have left generations of workers exhausted, stressed and always on.
In the face of a few tough years at work, employees want change. They want true flexibility, and sustainable salaries––more important now than ever in an era of rising inflation and prices. Judge herself explained that she wants to raise awareness about “toxic workplace expectations”.
In the UK, around four million people have changed careers and two million have left their jobs in the past year because of a lack of flexibility at work, a study from CIPD has found.
That trend will only increase as workers vote with their feet, and go to employers savvy enough to realise that worker happiness is the ultimate secret sauce, because what’s true is that a motivated, engaged and well-compensated workforce is one that benefits everyone.