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The ‘lazy girl job’ trend romanticises the drudgery of work

The TikTok trend encourages people to stop climbing the corporate ladder and seek out stress-free jobs – but does it risk individualising a systemic issue?

If the 2010s was the decade of the girlboss, the 2020s is shaping up to be the decade of anti-work. Since the advent of the pandemic in 2020, we’ve witnessed the rapid growth of r/antiwork, “a subreddit for those who want to end work,” to the Great Resignation of 2021 where millions of people across the world quit their jobs in the space of just a few months. The discussion has infiltrated pop culture, too, with Beyoncé encouraging us to “release your job, release the time” on “Break My Soul” and Kim Kardashian infamously commenting that “nobody wants to work these days” in an interview with Variety.

The latest iteration of anti-work culture is the ‘lazy girl job’ trend. Essentially, lazy girl jobs are roles which are undemanding and stress-free, where you’re allowed to take as many breaks as you want and there’s no pressure to work overtime. “It appears to be part of a re-evaluation of the place of work within one’s broader life that has been particularly pronounced within younger generations following the peak of the COVID pandemic,” explains Jack Kellam, lead editor at progressive thinktank Autonomy.

The #lazygirljob hashtag on TikTok already has over 12 million views, with videos from self-professed lazy girls boasting about how easy their working lives are. “All I do is copy and paste the same emails, take 3-4 [calls] a day, take my extra long break, take more breaks AND get a nice salary,” one video is captioned. “I get paid a bomb salary to talk to no one, take breaks whenever I want and be the office baddie,” says another. Predictably, most of the comments section under these sorts of videos are dominated by people begging to know how to get their own lazy girl job.

It’s unsurprising the trend has blown up on TikTok, as Gen Z in particular have a reputation for being the ‘anti-work generation’. We famously don’t ‘dream of labour’, with just 49 per cent of Gen Z saying that work is “central to their identity”, compared to 62 per cent of Millennials. This isn’t too surprising, given the climate young people have grown up in: those born after 1997 have already experienced two recessions, seen house prices spike to record highs, and are currently living through a period of mass economic anxiety. For young people today, all signs seem to suggest that hard work doesn’t pay – and if hard work doesn’t pay, what’s the point in working hard?

There may be no point in working hard, but unless you’re fabulously wealthy, the way society is set up means that you do need to work. So it makes sense that we’ve now moved on to discussing ways of rebelling while still operating under a work-centric capitalist system: like ‘quiet quitting’, where employees stop putting in any extra time and effort into their jobs, or ‘bare minimum Mondays’, where workers save their least stressful tasks for Mondays in order to ease into the working week – and now, lazy girl jobs. Because while many of us might be drawn to radical anti-work ideas, the vast majority of us can’t just quit – especially in a cost-of-living crisis. 

“While it’s encouraging to see the work ethic – and the dominant sense that work is valuable simply for work’s sake alone – being challenged, the individual ‘opt-out’ can only get us so far” – Jack Kellam

This all sounds appealing in theory, but the reality is a little different. ‘Lazy girl jobs’ – administrative or middle management type jobs where there’s little or nothing at stake and nobody even notices if you take a four-hour lunch break – could also be described as ‘bullshit jobs’. The term, coined by anthropologist David Graeber, describes “a form of paid employment that is so completely pointless, unnecessary, or pernicious that even the employee cannot justify its existence”. Admittedly, for some, this is fine. For those that have broader life circumstances in which they’re invested and provide them with fulfilment, then a less ‘fulfilling’ job may be much less of an issue. If one has access to the necessary ‘social capital’, and is able to still have sufficient energy to pursue one’s interests and passions ‘after work’, then spending eight hours a day on ‘bullshit’ tasks may be perfectly tolerable,” Kellam explains. “For others, it might remain a nightmare.”

Far from being the kind of work that promises to improve our mental wellbeing, Graeber argues that carrying out bullshit jobs eventually takes its toll on employees. “How can one even begin to speak of dignity in labour when one secretly feels one’s job should not exist? How can it not create a sense of deep rage and resentment?”, he writes in his 2013 essay ‘On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs’, where he first coined the term. A 2021 study confirmed Graeber’s suspicion, and found that workers who believed their jobs were pointless largely suffered from higher rates of depression and anxiety.

Gina* is a 25-year-old who works in an administrative role at a charity, a job which she feels is a typical ‘lazy girl job’. “It’s really not hard,” she says, explaining that she can often get away with slacking off as she suspects her colleagues don’t fully understand what her job entails. But despite her role being undemanding, Gina is unhappy at work and says she’ll be leaving soon. “It seems like I’ve got a really sweet deal because I don’t have to do very much and I get paid for it, so why would I leave? But it’s too depressing,” she says. “It’s really weird – I’m into the whole anti-work thing, I wish I didn’t have to work – but actually, it’s really depressing to feel like I’m not stretched or challenged at all [...] I feel like my brain is rotting because I have so little to do.”

While it seems like a good idea to actively seek out jobs which you find uninteresting or have little emotional attachment to, the fact remains that we spend roughly one third of our lives at work and wasting so much time doing a job which you secretly (or openly) believe to be pointless is incredibly degrading – even if you take long breaks or slack off. “I’m not free free, because I’m on the clock, even though I have so little to do. I can go around to my boyfriend’s or go out for a run or a swim, but I always take my laptop just in case I get asked to do anything, which does happen sometimes,” Gina says, adding: “I feel like I’m wasting my life.”

Alongside the mental health impact on individuals, it’s also possible that the existence of pointless jobs is keeping us all from collectively working less. “While it’s encouraging to see the work ethic – and the dominant sense that work is valuable simply for work’s sake alone – being challenged, the individual ‘opt-out’ can only get us so far,” Kellam says. “For every person who is lucky enough to find a ‘lazy girl’ job, and be happy with it, there will be many, many more stuck in lower ranking, poorly paid, hassled, bureaucratised, roles.” He adds that access to lazy girl jobs likely depends on a person’s class or race, too: “The confidence to look as though one is doing something important, to appear engaged [or] to be ‘trusted’ to work independently or with little scrutiny is often afforded far more to certain classes and racial identities than others.”

The idea of lazy girl jobs, then, is nothing radical: it’s just a romanticisation of the status quo. It’s easy to see why this is increasingly becoming a tempting idea for young people, given the economic turmoil of the past few decades and the reluctance of the ruling class to meaningfully change the way we work. But we shouldn’t resign ourselves to living and working under the current system forever. “For a more equitable solution – that frees up all of our lives to forms of the good we can only pursue outside of paid work – we need structural shifts,” Kellam says. “From working time reduction and the four day week, to the greater economic security offered by UBI.” And with breakthroughs in the four day week trials across the country and plans for the first ever UBI trial in England unveiled last month, change could be on the horizon.

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