The changing attitudes towards work

by May 15, 2023

It seems as though, in recent years, people’s views on work have changed. This shift is evident on social media, in news articles, and in conversations. Even in universities, attitudes have evolved. People are becoming more sceptical of the idea that work and career success are essential to a successful life. Instead, they reject excessive work, unhealthy practices, and imbalance between work and personal life. This change is influenced by and fuels an anti-work movement. It also reflects changes in work habits due to COVID-19’s great resignation, an increase in job hopping, self-employment, and quiet quitting. So, what’s really going on?


Context: A Historical Perspective 

Workers’ movements and unions have always fought for better labour conditions and workers’ rights, which puts the current shift in workforce attitudes into perspective. Understanding the historical context helps us grasp the significance of the ongoing changes. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic caused what many called the “great resignation.” Lockdown responsibilities overwhelmed workers, leading to a substantial increase in resignations and job changes in 2020 and subsequent years, altering the workforce dynamics. The global health crisis compelled individuals to reassess their priorities and rethink their relationship with work. Additionally, a notable trend called “quiet quitting,” has emerged, where employees set better work-life balance and disengage emotionally from their work without explicitly quitting. This trend is closely connected to the great resignation and the added pressure on remaining workers due to changing work environments. 


The Anti-Work Movement

One key aspect of this shifting attitude is the emergence of the anti-work movement, which has found footing on social media, such as in the subreddit r/antiwork, currently with over 2.6 million members, or in the TikTok hashtag #anti-work, which has seen over 155.3 million views.

What The Last of Us would actually be like #workplacecomedy #relateablecomedy #antiwork

♬ original sound – Boredwalk

The movement challenges the conventional belief that work is an inherent and necessary part of human life. It critiques the flaws within the current system, such as labour exploitation and prioritising profit over well-being. While the anti-work movement questions the value and purpose of traditional work, it operates within the constraints of our current society, with individuals needing to engage with work to meet basic needs while advocating for change.  


The Rise of Self-Employment

Another significant trend is the rise of self-employment, fuelled by the advent of social media, freelancing platforms, and the gig economy. People increasingly choose to work for themselves rather than commit to traditional employment models. 

According to the World Bank, the total self-employed percentage of workers in Australia in 2020 was reported at 16.32%. This includes workers working on their own business, with one or a few partners in a cooperative, or jobs defined as self-employed such as contractors.

The shift of more people moving into freelancing or self-employed jobs gives individuals more control over their work-life balance and allows them to pursue their passions and explore multiple income streams.


A New Generation of Workers

Contrary to popular belief, this shifting attitude towards work is not exclusive to one generation. However, it is worth examining how generational change can influence the workforce. Generation Z, in particular, has been at the forefront of redefining work values. Having grown up exposed to social media and the internet, Gen Z seeks authenticity, values transparency, and is more vocal about mental health and well-being. This generation’s unique perspective has significantly shaped the changing work landscape, requiring employers to be clear about their business practices and impacts and disengaging or refusing to work in poor conditions. 


Is Gen Z Lazy because we don’t want to work? ??? Gen Z is having tough economic conditions to live with like stagnant wages while house and property prices are sky high! ?? #genz #teen #finance #realestate #salary #moneytok

♬ Paris – Else


What comes next?

As the attitude towards work evolves, employers and employees need to adapt to these changing dynamics. Both parties must recognise the need for a healthier work-life balance, fairer labour practices, and mental health resources in the workplace. Companies must embrace flexibility and transparency to attract and retain their workers. There are already pushes towards changes in workplace practices, such as trials for 4-day work weeks, greater transparency about remuneration, job satisfaction, and career growth, and flexibility around remote work schedules. However, as an employee, you deserve to know your value and advocate for your needs in the workplace.


Not surprised #4dayworkweek #mentalhealth #2023update

♬ original sound – Greg Johnstone

The shifting attitude towards work signifies a broader movement seeking to redefine the purpose and value of labour. This change is driven by dissatisfaction with traditional work structures, the emergence of the anti-work movement, the influence of Generation Z, and the rise of self-employment. The future of work lies in our ability to adapt, embrace change, and prioritise the well-being and fulfilment of ourselves and the people around us. 



Featured image courtesy of Unsplash

Amelia Bussing

Amelia Bussing

Communications Assistant

Amelia is a Sydney-based writing and communications enthusiast working at UTS Careers as a Communications Assistant. She is a UTS Alumni who studied a Bachelor of Communications (Creative Writing & Advertising), and a Bachelor of Creative Intelligence and Innovation. She is passionate about creativity, storytelling, and the art of a well-timed gif, and has a vast collection of crazy socks.