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We’ve all had those days when we’re not feeling motivated for work. Even if you’re fortunate to be employed in an area you enjoy, with nice colleagues at an organisation that values you, it’s normal to experience occasional dips in enthusiasm. The ebbs and flows of job satisfaction are to be expected over the course of your career. But what if you never experience job satisfaction? What if you are fed up with a lack of work-life balance? Or a difficult boss? Or low pay and unfair work conditions? Or all of the above?

The Movement

In the US right now, there is a growing anti-work movement that is borne of the deep frustrations many employees feel in the workplace. This concept surged last year as the pandemic disrupted work and highlighted vast inequalities and dissatisfactions. 

As a recent BBC article by Brian O’Connor states, “fundamentally changing work overnight is unlikely, but we are experiencing an unprecedented shake-up in terms of how workers do their jobs and the kinds of conditions they are expecting from employers in return.” 

The anti-work movement numbers are sufficient enough that according to the Financial Times, Goldman Sachs warned in a recent research note that it posed a “long-run risk” to labour force participation. The popular r/anti-work subreddit group has gained traction with more than 1.7 million subscribers and as a result generated the ire and derision of right wing-leaning media outlets such as Fox News and The New York Post who dismiss them as the “I-refuse-to-be-useful” crowd and have attributed the forum to contributing to ‘The Great Resignation’. 

However, the anti-work movement shouldn’t be so readily dismissed as simply members of society who want to take and not contribute. In reality, what the majority are really calling for is a shake-up of the employment system. “We maybe consider that there might be an alternative to living our lives in thrall to the wealthiest among us, serving their profit,” University of Iowa professor Benjamin Hunnicutt. Hunnicutt’s books on the history of work are featured in r/antiwork’s library. He told the Financial Times, “Maybe there are other things to do with our lives than piling up profits for those that are ultra-rich, and taking that time, reclaiming that time.”

How organisations can adapt

A survey of 1,600 r/anti-work forum members indicated that over 50% of respondents still had full-time jobs. There are a large number of dissatisfied employees who want to change their work circumstances but aren’t about to step away from full-time employment or working for an organisation. Here are some tips for helping to maintain staff at this time of upheaval.

  1. Make it personal

    In most instances, there really shouldn’t be a “one size fits all” policy when it comes to staff arrangements. Talk to your employees about the work arrangements that are most suited to their personal circumstances, such as how many hours a week they’d like to work from home – then do your best to be accommodating.
  2. Be open to criticism

    Give staff an avenue in which to safely (and anonymously if preferred) air their grievances. Your business can only thrive when you have great employees, so looking after their mental wellbeing is important. You can learn a lot about how your business is functioning if you’re prepared to receive and take on board constructive feedback.
  3. Consider what’s fair

    It’s no doubt that many businesses have had a tough time as a result of the pandemic. However, looking after and supporting your employees is fundamental to creating a successful business.

    Make sure your practices are common sense, fair and ethical. For example, there have been stories coming out about companies that expect staff to take holiday leave if they contract Covid-19 and need to take time off work. Not only is this ethically dubious – these sorts of measures are a sure fire way to encourage your employees to start looking for another job.