Most of you have likely heard about the anti-work movement by now. While not a new idea by any means, it has once again become mainstream in the past year as the workforce dynamic has shifted more control to employees.
If you’re not familiar with the anti-work movement, according to a recent article on LinkedIn, it posits that many of today’s jobs are not necessary and they contribute to challenges like income inequality and poor work-life balance with the goal of reducing or eliminating paid labor and in its place, voluntary work that complements family and personal time. The idea is that people can determine their own work hours, where they want to work, and how much time they want to spend working.
According to the article, the anti-work movement has been a topic on Reddit for roughly the past ten years. Like quiet quitting and the great resignation, anti-work is another outcome of the pandemic. According to the Director of the Low Wage Work Program at the University of California Berkeley, Enrique Lopezlirka, “I think the pandemic highlighted or exacerbated things that were already happening in the labor space. So there are workers out there who have changed their preferences about work. Maybe the pandemic made them realize how precarious fair work conditions are and made them rethink, ‘Is this something that I want to go through again, and be this vulnerable to the changes that might affect my livelihood?’ Others were just burned out from the fact that they were essential workers [and their] jobs would not allow them to work remotely or social distance, exposing them to risks from the pandemic… We’re seeing public support just for organizing and unions unprecedented in the last 50 years because a lot of workers understand how important it is to have not just a job, but a good-quality job.”
Many in the anti-work movement are looking for more fulfillment from their jobs and how automation can support their vision of work. This view begs the question of what people consider fulfilling work. According to Lopezlira, “A lot of people don’t have the option of not doing paid work and just volunteering and doing something that fulfills them because they are in such a precarious financial situation. There’s lots of disparities in the labor market, where folks are living paycheck to paycheck. If you’re a single parent with responsibilities and very little to no savings, you don’t have the option of trying to just volunteer and do what makes you happy. And so the stronger the safety net is, the more people can have some options, but we’re a long way from having a safety net in terms of health care, retirement and unemployment insurance.”
If the idea of a utopian workforce seems unattainable, perhaps the focus should be on improving your company’s culture, so employees feel valued. When they feel a sense of purpose in their work, they are more engaged. There are also considerations around benefits beyond monetary rewards. Working with employees to understand what is important to them in their work-life balance is another way to show them how appreciated they are for the work they do.
For more articles about working, human resources, and executive leadership, visit our blog.