Updated: May 11
Blame the pandemic (again) or relate it to Marxist ideals (why should it only be the wealthy who don’t have to work?) or consider the concept of the portfolio career (part-time commitment to part-time roles). But whatever the reason behind this new behaviour, recent reports have seen young workers backing away from devoting their lives to employment.
An ‘anti-work’ movement in the US, highlighted by social media website Reddit, is proving to be extremely popular. Started in 2013, the subreddit, with its slogan ‘Unemployment for all, not just the rich!” has attracted more than 1.7 million users. Add to the mix, the recent increase in hybrid working and people reassessing what they want from their lives, quitting full-time employment has become a viable option.
Julia, 29, a talent and acquisition manager in a marketing start-up, says, “The last couple of years have been a massive wake up call for me. Life at the office has changed beyond recognition. Half of my colleagues work from home, some have left completely, others are so weary they can barely remember why they turned up in the first place. I am really questioning whether I want to dedicate myself to a full-time job for much longer, especially when my boss underappreciates my efforts and the CEO wouldn’t know me if I passed out at his feet.”
After the strain of the last two years, it would be significantly short-sighted of leaders to ignore the needs of their people. More than ever, workers want to be seen, heard and valued. They crave more freedom in their roles, the opportunity to innovate, to be fulfilled and recognised for their contribution to the whole. And if this isn’t happening, they display the courage and grit to stand on their own two feet.
Sarah, 21 is a self-employed coder. She says, “I always felt the traditional working systems weren’t for me. I want the ownership to do things my way. I am inspired by the sense of self that autonomy gives me. I am lucky in the fact that my parents always encouraged me to fulfil my dreams; there wasn’t the emphasis on typical employment to be the only indicator of achievement.”
Flexibility underpins much of this approach. And it needs to come from all sides for a successful outcome to occur. If leaders can understand that their people may work best outside of the conventional confines and workers can show a commitment to getting the job done, maybe there’s a future in, perhaps not ‘anti-work’, but ‘anti-trad work’? Like most of the dilemmas, we face as humans, finding a balance usually leads to a solution.
Arthur is an operations manager in a software business specialising in financial analysis. Since the pandemic, Arthur has noticed his team wanting more freedom in their roles. “They work hard and they don’t waste time,” he explains, “But I can see a shift in them pinning their self-worth on personal accomplishment, with very strong boundaries around what they want to get into and what they don’t. At first, I interpreted this as selfish behaviour but then I started to see it as more self-focused. There is a difference. As a manager, it’s crucial that I adjust to this different way of working. That means seeing them as individuals and being able to trust they will get the job done, even if it’s not exactly how I might do things.”
George Bernard Shaw said: “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” If we are to embrace this emphasis on more independent working, our leaders must nurture these non-conformers. Otherwise, they - and their talents - will be gone for good.
To understand how to get the best out of your people, why don’t you book a phone call with us at untapped.ai?