Anti-Work is Empowering People Outside of their Jobs, but what is it Exactly?

Side profile of a woman sitting at a desk looking at her laptop in front of a city skyline
These days, many of us might hate our jobs or simply spend a lot of our working hours daydreaming of a life without a career.

If you’re either of these people, you might have heard of the anti-work movement. Anti-work is changing the relationship many people have with their jobs by redefining the concept (and necessity) of work.

Anti-work is a labor movement focused on people being treated like humans rather than just labor robots, and embracing ideals that place their priorities on being fulfilled outside of just getting a paycheck. The pandemic brought this concept to light for millions of people for the first time.

While some of us aspire to have fulfilling careers, these careers can often be fraught with everything from combating overwork in a world that wants you to be a “girlboss” to imposter syndrome. After all, in a world where women have only recenlty been allowed to meaningfully contribute in the work economy, it seems foreign to trade that to deprioritize working. However, the anti-work movement promotes reclaiming your time and labor for yourself vs giving it to an employer that won’t even appreciate your efforts, the main reason why it is so popular in the first place.

The platform for anti-work is mostly an online movement, most prominently represented by the subreddit r/antiwork. The now-popular community was hovering around 100k people in a pre-pandemic world only to balloon to a present-day presence of 2.1 million people.

While r/antiwork is serving as a big platform for the movement, it’s important to note that it’s not without its chaos. Originally a lesser-known concept, anti-work has been a source of controversy with who has been chosen to represent (or misrepresent, depending on who you ask) the community to mainstream media, making it a sore topic for those who have adopted its ideals over the years.

Defined in its community description as “A subreddit for those who want to end work, are curious about ending work, want to get the most out of a work-free life, want more information on anti-work ideas and want personal help with their own jobs/work-related struggles,” r/anti-work is actually filled with everything from stories of workers fighting back against abusive employers to some telling their resignation stories with glee.

Though the community aims to meet its ultimate goal of “unemployment for all, not just the rich,” it’s a decent resource for those new to the concept of working to live vs living to work. Like with all things on the internet though, it’s always good to balance these concepts being presented by strangers on an online platform with parts of the movement that benefit you as an individual. Using this concept to refine your relationship with work to make you your best self is the goal here.

Anti-work is also gaining traction outside of the internet, primarily in redefining the conversation about how people approach work. With companies struggling to maintain employee retention without giving in to more equitable approaches to work like offering everything from better benefits to hybrid/remote work schedules that didn’t exist before the pandemic, we’re seeing a shift in workers owning their value to employers. While this can’t be only attributed to anti-work, the conversations certainly carry a lot of value to those in the movement, and the effects of these concepts are being seen in places that may not even know the movement itself exists.

So next time you’re thinking about your next career move, consider how your job impacts your life and make adjustments to ensure that it is making you the best version of yourself possible. While most have to work and maintain careers to satisfy the material needs in our lives, there’s no harm in letting work be a necessary evil vs it being the focal point of your life. That's what the anti-work movement has managed to bring to the table.

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