The world is witnessing an era of worker strikes and movements. During the pandemic, frontline workers were called warriors and lauded publicly for their efforts. But they were made to work extra hours without prior notice, denied sick leave, and even hazard pay. Some were even denied sick leave and health insurance.
What did that lead to? A little something that is known as the Anti-Work Movement.
What is the Anti-Work Movement?
The anti-work movement began on Reddit by workers who feel they are oppressed at work. These workers don’t want to quit their jobs but are searching for a workplace that treats them well. They don’t want to work in organizations that treat their employees like machines. If you want to learn more about the anti-work subreddit that was the beginning of this movement, click here.
Why Lead to the Rise of the Anti-Work Movement?
The anti-work movement has mobilized an interesting cross-section of working people worldwide. Many think it is just millennials who vent their frustrations through social media platforms. However, it consists of people of different age groups who are tired of exploitative employers.
While the anti-work movement is not new, it gained serious momentum during the pandemic. A recent survey by Gartner shows that 56% of employees worldwide wanted to work and add value to society after the pandemic. But, 65% of the employees were thinking that there needs to be a better work-life balance to prevent burnout.
People had more time to debate political and social issues, and they realized that the government and the companies were not interested in making a difference in the improvement of the middle class. Instead, they gained from a socio-economic divide where the rich become richer, and the poor much poorer.
All this anger had been building for decades, and they finally found something to channel it into. We have been witnessing how cancel culture is growing because of people’s ability to boycott celebrities and brands due to their polarising views. The anti-work movement is not directly related to this one, but it is collective anger that has found an outlet and support.
Do Businesses Need to Worry About The Anti-Work Movement?
So, should companies worry about this movement? Yes, they must because a simple event can act as a catalyst and result in massive agitation among employees.
Also, the anti-work movement is about reducing the workload to lead a happy life. Therefore, companies must realize how it could impact their productivity and growth plans. The priority of the individuals who connect with this movement is to focus on their individual goals and interests. They are focused on improving the skills that could help them earn money in easier ways. Some even step away from the hustle culture of it all and simply want to work to earn money and nothing else. They’re clear in their intentions and will not go the extra mile at the cost of their own convenience.
This is very different from the attitude of boomers who believed that if they worked hard at their job, they would rise in the ranks and eventually live a life of luxury to quietly retire in peace. It was a different time and one that isn’t going to come back in light of inflation and changing attitudes to the importance of work. Businesses need to adapt to these changes and find new ways to incentivize their employees.
The Business Impact of the Anti-Work Movement
The anti-work movement is already in full swing in certain developed nations. However, it isn’t as popular in developing countries.
Shift in Power
As workers strive to improve their lives by forming unions, they will face resistance from the management of their companies. By unionizing, the workers can make their employers amend working conditions and compensation policies. This can bring in major a power shift.
The employees can also participate in discussions about work schedules and working hours. Many employees could also want working days reduced from 5 days per week to 4.
Employees Might Get the Recognition They Deserve
Most employees feel exploited because they aren’t recognized or appreciated for their work. For example, anti-workers who work as babysitters might want society to realize the importance of their work and probably provide them with more benefits and compensation.
Employees would want their management to notice their hard work and provide them with more salary hikes or promotions. Employees working on lower levels may not feel appreciated enough. Sometimes, even an all-expenses paid trip can make them feel better and valued by the company. Businesses should take these things into account and come up with better compensation and benefits structures.
As the anti-work movement gains momentum, employers will start paying attention to employees’ rising demands and requirements. We have already seen how the Great Resignation during the pandemic forced companies to pay higher compensations to hire employees. However, this was primarily applicable to the technical professionals working in the IT sector. When the anti-work movement grows in full force, even workers and laborers could ask for higher salaries.
Demand for Equal Pay
As the anti-work movement gains momentum, women will demand equal pay in their respective organizations. Employers who do not oblige can face severe retaliation on public and social fronts. The organizations will be compelled to introduce compensation policies that pay everyone equally irrespective of gender and background.
How Should Businesses React to the Anti-Work Movement?
Businesses should not react to anti-work movements in panic as it might not go down well with their employees. Firstly, the management should not ridicule such movements by understanding the reasons why they’re happening.
Focus On Employee Retention
When some senior employees in the organization participate in rage quitting, it creates panic among the employees. They can come together to discuss the things that aren’t right in their organization. Slowly, it can start a spark for the anti-work movement in their office itself.
To avoid this, employers should focus on retaining their employees. A higher preference should be given to retaining employees with work experience and productivity. It is not only essential to maintain productivity levels and work quality, but it will also save the expenses required to train and adjust new employees in the system.
Employers should provide flexibility to their employees in terms of work schedules. Those who want to work from their homes should be allowed to do so. Also, a hybrid work model could help maintain their work-life balance.
The employees must be free to choose to sit wherever they are comfortable. Informal office and cabin setups will reduce some of their work pressure and exhaustion. Employers must make all these efforts because most employees face work-related issues like burnout and fatigue. Feeling tired or bored at work is not good as it eventually results in burnout which could hamper the organization’s productivity goals. Businesses must find a way to address these issues. Increasing engagement levels through fun activities can be one of the ways to address exhaustion at work.
Employees who go through work fatigue should be able to take support from their peers and mental health experts. Eventually, if the organization manages to take care of its employees and keep their loyalty, they won’t feel the urge to join the anti-work movement.
Provide Professional Development
The employees who don’t get to learn new things in an organization eventually get frustrated. They complete their tasks like a chore and are unsatisfied with their work. Unsatisfied employees can join the anti-work movement and disturb the work process. To avoid this, employers must provide learning opportunities to their employees. They can offer courses that improve communication, technical, and other skills.
For example, full-stack development courses can be introduced for upskilling programmers. Employees are driven toward work and professional goals when they get opportunities to grow and shape their careers. It not only keeps them satisfied but also helps to build an environment of positivity and happiness in the workplace.
Give Short Breaks
Employees are not robots and they cannot work continuously. They need frequent breaks to gather their thoughts to work productively. Employers should design short and frequent breaks across the work schedule so that the employees don’t feel overworked.
Understanding the Requirements of Employees
The anti-work movement is also due to the monotony of the 9-to-5 job. The remote working system put an end to monotonous work to some extent. However, the pandemic has subsided, and most employers are calling employees back offices. Employers can design flexible work schedules and allow employees to work in their comfortable times.
Every employee is different when it comes to their working pattern. Some employees are productive during the day, while others are comfortable working at night. Employers can look at asynchronous working as a possible solution for this.
Access to Food and Recreation
A good pantry with enough food choices can be a great way to make the employees happy. Employers must also try to provide facilities like gyms, indoor sports, etc., that can boost their spirits.
Businesses should monitor the anti-work movement closely and monitor employee engagement levels in their own organization. Also, they must make the necessary changes in their processes and compensation structures to keep any issues contained locally.
While the ideas we’ve spoken about are a few methods to manage employee expectations without adversely impacting the business, there is no uniform method that will work for everyone. Businesses must proactively keep employees engaged, happy and loyal to prevent the anti-work movement from wreaking havoc in their workforce.