by Courtney White
When it comes to blaming the masses, no one seems to take the fall more than young people: Weird food trends, the “baby bust,” and now, a labor shortage all seem to be attributed to Millennials and Gen Z. Now, following “The Great Resignation” comes a new phrase, “antiwork.” It’s a movement pointing out the flaws in work and employment. The subreddit grew from 76,000 to 1,019,000 subscribers from January 2020 to November 2021, according to Vice. And they planned a “Blackout Black Friday” strike. So, what’s this movement, and how far will it go?
What is antiwork?
This isn’t simply a lazy act of defiance. The antiwork movement has to do with burnout, mental health, wages, benefits, employer treatment, and many other factors. The pandemic saw many people working themselves to the bone but for low pay under toxic management. Then came The Great Resignation, where millions voluntarily left their jobs. Nearly 40% of those were service jobs— restaurant, hotel, bar, and health care workers, and others—also known as those who are famously underpaid. Now, employees from nearly every workforce sector in the U.S. are coming forward to expose poor treatment and overworking, among other issues.
From close up
Many young people aren’t returning to their jobs due to burnout, overworking, and just overall bad treatment. The antiwork subreddit shows people of all ages—not just teenagers and Millennials—telling horror stories of mistreatment at jobs that paid minimum wage. The levels range from lowkey toxic to borderline threatening, and they’re eye-opening examples of how easy it is to exploit workers.
The workforce can be a toxic environment. A 40-hour workweek is too much for many and yet still not enough for some to keep food on the table. And some millionaires don’t do nearly as much work as their employees but reap all the benefits. Many believe we aren’t put on this planet to work 40 hours, eat, sleep and repeat. That’s a key message in the antiwork movement.
The bigger picture
From a broader perspective, the subreddit’s mantra is “unemployment for all, not just the rich!” They want to see a world where everyone can survive with no work. The forum really opened up a space for people to vent about all sorts of employment-related issues. But they’re not the kind of issues that can be changed by one company; instead, they’re calling for a societal change.
The future of antiwork
It’s not to say that the concept of antiwork came without controversy. There’s blame placed on laziness, people being “snowflakes,” and a lack of ambition that older generations had. Many critics call the movement radical, calling it the start of a “world without work.”
Where is the cash flow?
Despite the more severe call for no work at all, plenty of people have found side hustles to fill the void of their full-time job. Side hustles and small businesses have been a great way for many to avoid the workforce but still have cash. And the pandemic gave many a chance to hone in on skills and then sell them. It also allowed time for many to adapt to social media: The TikTok hashtag #smallbusiness has nearly 44 BILLION views.
The pandemic has taught us many things, and one thing many have learned is that if you hate your job or see no potential to grow, just quit. There’s always another opportunity. But should we not work at all?
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Courtney is a senior at Montclair State University studying journalism, fashion and makeup artistry. Originally from rural Pennsylvania, Courtney enjoys writing, painting or reading in her spare time.
Photo “Title” by Author. Attribution. Background Photo “Title” by Author. CC BY-Attribution.0.