It’s uncomfortable to say this, but the virus outbreak has led to many positive changes. The cold, hard reality of seeing hundreds of thousands of people in the U.S. alone die from a virus outbreak was a wake-up call. It made us re-evaluate our lives and the way we work.
When confronted with the stark fact that we only have one short, precious life to live, it forces us to think deeply about how we can best maximize this brief time here on earth to make a difference.
Millions of Americans have quit their jobs in the “Great Resignation.” Workers were frustrated with low pay, long hours and little or no future growth potential. To add insult to injury, they had to endure overbearing micromanaging bosses. If they worked in restaurants, bars or retail stores, there were constant arguments with rude customers and fighting over mask requirements.
If you’re on the r/antiwork subreddit, you’ll find over 700,000 idlers—the self-described term for members of this group—sharing their stories of mistreatment by companies. The group is a home for “those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles.”
This movement means something different to the people on the site. If taken at face value, some members are sick and tired of working and don’t have any interest in finding a new job anytime soon. Others want to vent their frustrations. A common, unifying theme is that workers feel that they are being taken advantage of, forced to work long hours for low wages and treated rudely by their unsympathetic managers.
Roughly 40% of the jobs that people quit were in the restaurant, hotel, travel, bars, warehouses, manufacturing and healthcare sectors. These folks contend with long, constantly changing hours, rude customer behaviors, low wages and high stress.
These workers are pushing back against poor pay, unpleasant working conditions and a lack of respect from management. Once they’ve left, many take their time to seek out new types of opportunities that offer meaningful work and a path to advance.
Many of their complaints, factoring in a healthy dose of hyperbole, are valid. The younger generation may be the first group in modern history that does not do better or as well as their parents. With tens or hundreds of thousands in student-loan debt, young adults find it almost impossible to purchase a home, get married and start a family. The debt burden, along with rising home prices and inflation, doesn’t leave them with sufficient funds to afford the lifestyle that older generations took for granted.
The Idlers aired their individual grievances on the platform. There’s a bigger movement brewing. More than 100,000 workers are threatening to walk off their jobs or strike in a new movement called “Striketober.” Low wages, lackluster benefits and unfair treatment are some of the reasons cited for this new trend.
Time reports, “In the first five days of October alone, there were 10 strikes in the U.S., including workers at Kellogg plants in Nebraska, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee; school bus drivers in Annapolis, Md.; and janitors at the Denver airport.” That doesn’t include the “nearly 60,000 union members in film and television production who nearly unanimously voted to grant their union’s president the authority to call a strike.”
It’s not just the hospitality workers and Reddit crowd that feels disenfranchised from our modern-day economy. In my in-depth interview with Daniel Shapero, the COO of LinkedIn, the go-to social media platform for career-minded, white-collar professionals, we talked about how now that we’ve worked remotely for nearly two years, commuting two or three hours each day to an office feels antiquated and a waste of precious time.
Forced to work in a cubicle for eight hours a day, staring at a computer screen, seems strange, as the work can be done equally as well in the comfort of your own home. There is a collective call for having a better quality of life. To achieve this goal, work needs to be flexible and tailored around the needs and desires of the individual, said Shapero.
He discussed the revolutionary workplace trend of the “Great Reshuffle,” contending that we are living through a momentous era of change—unlike anything we’ve seen before in the history of work. Both leadership and employees are reimagining the way we work. It’s a time when everyone is rethinking everything.
Somewhat different from the frustrated laments and rants on Reddit, Shapero is excited to see that people on his platform are proactive and rethinking where, how and why they work. He also noticed that employers are recalibrating their talent needs and corporate culture.
The Reddit crowd skews toward the Gen-Z and Millennial demographics. On the other end of the spectrum, we’re now seeing the “Great Retirement,” a silver tsunami of Baby Boomers leaving the workforce.
During the bleak early days of the pandemic, in the third quarter of 2020, nearly 30 million Baby Boomers left the job market and retired, according to the Pew Research Center. The study showed that Covid-19 heavily contributed to the rapid increase of Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964—being forced out of the labor market.
About a year later, the exodus accelerated. A recent survey from Coventry showed that over 75% of the respondents said they are planning to retire early. The effects of the pandemic made older people reflect on what is really important to them. A larger percentage have come to the realization that they’ll be happier and live a more fulfilling life by leaving their jobs.
Employees are calling for flexible work arrangements, remote options, shorter work days (based on output and performance, as opposed to facetime), four-day workweeks and the freedom from being chained to a desk eight hours a day with a micromanaging boss and long commute.
When a person loses or willingly leaves their job, the usual process is to seek out another similar type of role within their industry. They want to keep progressing forward in their desired profession. Intrepid people may try to pivot to a new type of role or reinvent themselves. The bold and adventurous turn toward entrepreneurship.
There has been a boom in new businesses. Becoming an entrepreneur is considered cool and trendy. Saying you work at a startup is now a status symbol of success. A record number of new businesses have been created. In July 2020, around 600,000 new business applications were filed—up 100% from the year prior.
Another entrepreneurial trend is seen in the rapidly expanding ranks of young, novice day traders and investors. As the stocks seemed to only go up, more people became interested in investing and trading securities. Some take a long-term approach and others have a more YOLO (you only live once) attitude, hoping to hit it big quickly.
Robinhood, the go-to trading app for many Millennials and Gen-Zers, reported about 22.5 million accounts opened, and a majority of them are actively trading. Cryptocurrencies also became all the rage. On Twitter and other social media sites, you’re inundated daily with the latest digital asset that’s primed to make a big move. Non-Fungible Tokens, better known as NFTs, have also found a brisk market in buying and selling these properties, to the tune of upward of about $3 billion.
The “quitters” have sought out jobs with meaning and purpose, flexibility and choices. They are pivoting to new types of jobs and reinventing themselves as business owners or stock traders. Others, angry about their circumstances, will continue to simmer and vent their frustrations online.