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Anti-Work Movement: Think Before Your Leap

anti-work movement

Quiet quitting and the Great Resignation have given way to an “anti-work” movement in which workers are going to drastic measures to swear off the typical 9-to-5. Before you join in, take a good look at the pros and cons and what might really be going on with your desire to leave all work behind.

The anti-work movement is based on the idea that not all work is necessary or beneficial, and that there should be an emphasis put on having a balanced life outside of work. While some see it as a way to free themselves from the pressures of modern society, others worry about its potential downsides.

Like many “overnight” trends, the anti-work movement has actually been around for a while. Many studying the phenomenon link it back to a subreddit that started in 2013. It’s likely you’ve seen some of the most popular posts reshared in your social media feed over the years, like this one about non-quiet quitting:


In most cases, quiet quitting, the Great Resignation, and the anti-work movement share the purpose of finding work that brings you joy. It’s usually not about eliminating work altogether. Very few are in a position to not earn a living, after all. Instead, it’s about finding a balance between work and life and ensuring that your needs are met in both areas. Essentially, how can you find work that makes you happy and doesn’t FEEL like work?

“You may not like your job, but do you dislike it so much that you wouldn’t even wish your job on your worst enemy? Our study discovered that nearly half of U.S. workers say, yes, it’s that bad,” admits Chris Mullen, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, SPHR, executive director of The Workforce Institute. If you agree, read on.

Words of Caution

If you’re considering joining the anti-work movement, don’t sacrifice more than you intended. First, you might ask yourself if there’s another problem that’s causing you to feel burned out. The Workforce Institute’s data reveals a fascinating example of this:

Only about a quarter (27%) of women reported feeling “energized” in their role, compared with 40% of men surveyed. Furthermore, 21% of women said they rarely, if ever, take time off — while only 9% of men reported the same, meaning men are more likely to take time off, or at least feel comfortable doing so. This reluctance to take time off might stem from the fact that 66% of women surveyed in the U.S. also said they feel “easily replaceable” in their current work situation, possibly leading 61% of women to say they’d switch jobs right now if they could.

Are you truly an anti-worker, or is there something about the nature of your job or your work that is throwing you for a loop? Remember that your goal likely can’t be to eliminate work altogether. Very few are in a position to do that. Could it be that it’s not the job, but your lack of balance within that job that’s making you unhappy? And, if so, how can you fix it? Can your manager or supervisor help? Check out our previous article on setting boundaries at work without quiet quitting for ideas on how to find out.  

As you explore your options, be careful that your actions don’t cause regrettable results. In outlets like the anti-work movement subreddit, you’ll see scathing criticism and complaints about employers. Granted, some of these employers’ actions are completely out of line, but be careful about chiming in where employers, recruiters, and potential employers can find it. Consider how your decisions may affect your financial security, career prospects, and relationships with others. CareerBuilder reports that 54% of employers chose not to hire a candidate based on content found on their social media.

Moving On

When the points above are all addressed, and you’re still yearning to break free of the 9-to-5, it might just be time to do so. Perhaps it’s just a matter of “leaning out” or accepting lower pay for more freedom. As Built In explains it, “the anti-work movement often leads to people finding ways to make just enough money to get by so they will have more leisure time, rather than working long hours to earn more money.”

Or maybe an office job isn’t for you. Perhaps you yearn to be out in nature, create, or teach instead. Conversely, maybe you’ve suffered the stress of too little structure. Did you know that being a dental hygienist is one of the happiest jobs in the U.S.?

A sludge of a job for one person may be a dream for another. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and the best way to find a balance is to explore different options and figure out what works for you. How? You could try taking classes or getting certifications to make yourself marketable in a different field. You could also consider temporary work that could open you up to roles and industries you never considered before.

“I think there is this assumption in American life that we work hard and we get ahead. I think the anti-work movement shatters this assumption,” says Matthew Call, assistant professor in the management department at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University.

The good news is that there are employers out there who understand and who create a work environment you may not want to quit. You just might need some help finding them.