‘Anti-work’ threads on Reddit fueling the Great Resignation

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They say you have to work hard to get ahead, but some are finding that you can work very little and still do pretty well.

On Reddit, the “antiwork” subreddit is now one of the social network’s most active and engaged pages, after seeing explosive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic. It currently has more than 1.6 million users, up from 180,000 in October 2020. People post epic text and e-mail screenshots of quitting their jobs, but the real heroes are so-called “idlers” — those who stay in jobs doing the absolute minimum to get by while still collecting a paycheck.

“Everyone has hit their limit with COVID, overwork, their mortgages, rent payments and so many things with capitalism. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to take a break from that and do less of it,” said Doreen Ford, the page’s moderator. A 30-year-old living in Boston, Ford once held a job in retail, but for the past five years, she’s been self-employed as a dog walker, working about 25 hours a week.

Antiwork moderator Doreen Ford says that movement is a major snub towards capitalism.
Antiwork moderator Doreen Ford says that movement is a major snub towards capitalism.
courtesy of Doreen Ford

She noted that the general idea behind the anti-work movement “is to reduce the coercive element of labor as much as possible by subverting capitalism,” and said that those active on the page are mainly far leftists who support Bernie Sanders and AOC, and, often also identify as socialists, communists and/or anarchists.

Among them are users like podcastquestions, who boasted that they make $80,000 a year by answering one to two calls a week “and literally nothing else.” Another user, an anonymous IT professional, bragged about taking things a step further, automating their gig at a law firm with “a simple script that performed [their] entire job” for over a year. Company brass didn’t catch on, and the employee was still paid $90,000 a year.

Some fear anti-workers could have far-reaching consequences for the economy. The Financial Times recently reported that Goldman Sachs was fretting that the movement posed a “long-run risk” to labor force participation.

It comes at a time where a record number of workers are quitting, a phenomenon that’s been dubbed the Great Resignation. In November, 4.5 million Americans voluntarily left their jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

But those numbers tell only part of the story, said Rutgers professor Todd Vachon, director of the school’s Labor Education Action Research Network.

“Everyone has hit their limit with COVID, overwork, their mortgages, rent payments and so many things with capitalism.”

Doreen Ford, moderator of the “antiwork” subreddit

“We’re not only seeing the mass resignation, but at the same time a wave of strike activity and new organizing activity among workers that have remained in their jobs,” Vachon told The Post.

“The two are interconnected. A shortage of workers willing to take low-wage jobs empowers those in those jobs to take bold actions to improve them with less fear of being fired or replaced.”

The anti-work subreddit shows people doing just that. One user, a technician of some sort who goes by the name willcalliv, posted screenshots of a demanding email sent to their boss. They noted that their “skills are high in demand this year” and asked for a 6.8 percent raise, a work week of no more than 45 hours, a company phone and a new car with a working air conditioner — all in the name of “personal growth.”

While it’s unclear if the asks were granted, willcalliv’s post received more than 80,000 upvotes of support from Redditors.

Another user who goes by the screen name introductionhonest10 and works in management recently wrote of their demands on their employer. They proposed a 10 percent pay increase, five extra days off a year, and having Monday be an optional workday for those who are ahead on their tasks. The proposal was accepted a few months back and the results have been good: employee satisfaction is up, and there’s been no decline in revenue.

“All I can say is wowwww,” introductionhonest10 said in a post.

Ford, who is currently pursuing a master’s in philosophy at Boston College, while also running the anti-work subreddit and hosting a podcast, says such success stories show the movement is about more than self-absorbed Gen Zers who can’t be bothered to get out of bed — sort of.

“What we call laziness is actually people reaching their limits for very good reasons that are outside of their control,” she said. “Well, some of us are lazy and we just don’t want to work.”

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