Antiwork trends like ‘lazy girl jobs’ show how young people are rallying against burnout culture
“Lazy girl jobs” — a viral term that refers to well-paying, flexible jobs that allow for leisure time — are anything but lazy. Just ask the employees who occupy these types of roles, who tout on social media that they have time to relax on the job and still get their work done.
As antiwork discourse gains momentum across the internet, job seekers and employees are growing tired of being shamed for retaliating against a culture that they say glorifies overworking.
Having accrued more than 18 million views since its emergence on TikTok in mid-May, #lazygirljob — which blew up last week after The Wall Street Journal reported on the concept — is the latest iteration of a viral trend prompting employees to set firmer boundaries at work. Last year, it was "quiet quitting," a term that denoted working within your set hours and job description without going above and beyond.
And recently, the popularization of concepts like bed rotting, which describes lounging in bed for extended periods of time, and girl dinners, which constitute snack plates in lieu of fully prepped meals, encouraged many online, particularly women, to take reprieve from the burnout that commonly results from societal expectations to always be productive.
At the core of it all, many workers are saying that they are fed up with the notion that wanting to enjoy life makes them bad employees.
“Decentering your 9-to-5 from your identity is so important because if you don’t, then you’re kind of putting your eggs all in one basket that you can’t necessarily control,” said Gabrielle Judge, a self-described “anti work girlboss” and TikTok creator who is credited for coining the term “lazy girl job.” “So it’s like, how can we stay neutral to what’s going on in our jobs, still show up and do them, but maybe it’s not 100% of who we are 24/7?”
Judge, who has been responding to backlash after the phrase went viral last week, said the controversy wasn’t unexpected. She said she had labeled the term satirically to prove the point that compared to traditional hustle-culture mentality, a healthy work-life balance is often viewed as lazy.
One tech recruiter who works a self-proclaimed lazy girl job — at a remote company with a flexible schedule and unlimited paid time off that, she says, people actually use — explained in a TikTok video that her manager trusts her to complete her work regardless of whether she steps out in the middle of the day for a hair appointment.
“There’s nothing lazy about expecting a job that pays you well, gives you good work-life balance and doesn’t overwork you. And no one in a lazy girl job is actually lazy,” she said in the video. “Because the companies who do take care of their employees, sadly, because there are so few of them in the United States, they have really high standards for hiring, so no one is at these companies actually slacking off.”
For many workers, the COVID-19 pandemic triggered a radical shift in priorities as people around the world, especially those who had the means to isolate at home, discovered new passions and a slower pace of life. Corporate jobs pivoting to remote work showed for the first time, and on a massive scale, that flexibility in work was possible without compromising productivity. And now that employees have gotten a taste, they’re refusing to return to old ways.
Danielle Roberts, who calls herself an “anti-career” coach on TikTok, calls this surge in antiwork trends a “mini act of revolution” by workers who feel that their needs continue to go unmet. Shifts toward slower living, she said, are employees’ attempts to take back “whatever control they can.”
... rather than calling the people who are divesting from that system lazy, and telling them that they just need to work harder, we need to talk about why it’s a trend in the first place and go one level deeper.
-Danielle Roberts, who calls herself an “anti-career” coach on TikTok
“People are spending a lot of hours per day doing something that drains them and doesn’t necessarily enhance their quality of life,” Roberts said. “And rather than calling the people who are divesting from that system lazy, and telling them that they just need to work harder, we need to talk about why it’s a trend in the first place and go one level deeper.”
The concept of work-life balance feels like a false dichotomy to Roberts, because it implies that “living” too much must mean somebody doesn’t really care about their work. In reality, she said, living a more enjoyable life enhances work performance by ensuring employees show up more energized and well rested.
“We’ve seen that the 40-hour work week is now outdated. We can produce the same amount of work, if not more work, in a fraction of the time,” she said. “So wanting to keep those butts in seats, and not just for 40 hours, but for 40-plus hours, is just really a means of control. If you hired them, you should trust your employees to do their job and do it well.”
Roberts, who describes herself as a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, said she spent years of her life trying to prove that she could be the hardest worker at her job before asking herself what she really wanted out of life — and realizing that the hustle culture wasn’t making her happy.