Work. It’s a verb and noun that a lot of people have mixed feelings about, myself included. At its best, it gives us purpose, fulfilment, and something else to fill our days with besides our FYP’s content. At its worst, it is an exhausting, demoralising, and soul-crashing experience that poses a threat to our mental and physical well-being.
The 9 to 5 grind can be seriously rough. So, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone when TikToker Brielle posted a clip on 19 October 2023 in which she justifiably complained about her experience of working her first full-time job:
“I don’t have time to do anything. I just want a shower, eat my dinner, and go to sleep. I don’t have the energy to cook my dinner either. Like, I don’t have the energy to work out. That’s out the window. I’m so upset, oh my god. Nothing to do with my job but the 9 to 5 schedule in general is crazy,” the young content creator stated.
Brielle explained that she is currently commuting into the city and leaving for work at 7:30 in the morning. She doesn’t get home until 6:15 in the evening, at which point she doesn’t have time to do much else besides recharge herself for work the next day.
“I’m in-person and I’m commuting into the city… If I was able to walk to work it’d be fine, but I’m not,” she said, adding that she doesn’t believe she’ll be able to afford a place in the city any time soon.
The video instantly went viral, with many gen Z users empathising with Brielle’s situation. “40-hour work week was designed with a homemaker to take care of house tasks. We need dual incomes now, so that’s not possible. No time for anything,” one TikToker stated. “It’s traumatising the first year,” another user said. “Gen Z need to collectively move up into management positions and then collectively enforce the four-day work week,” someone else suggested.
Nevertheless, the video also received some negative reactions, particularly from older generations.
“Okay, Gen X here and this cracks me up. I did a full-time job and 2 part-time jobs while going to college full-time. I’m on call now 24/7. 9-5 is amazing,” one gen Xer responded. “It’s crazy to me that younger generations are not prepared to work. My parents both worked, we knew that’s what adult life was and still is,” another one added. “I’m a nurse. I work every other weekend and almost every day of the week. And no one sees me complaining. If you still get weekends off you have a life lol,” another TikToker noted.
Brielle has even ended up in the spotlight of Fox News. The news outlet used her TikTok in a segment titled College grads are finding out what life’s about:
Such responses from legacy media are incredibly discouraging because they fail to acknowledge the underlying problems of such statements. In March 2023, The Guardian reported that we are facing almost 15 years of “almost completely unprecedented” wage stagnation, underscoring the failure of recent economic policy.
On top of this, Fortune reported that the cost of living crisis is currently so intense that it’s costing Brits their ability to buy homes. Research also found that gen Zers are spending less on their social lives, clothing and food, with an unusual rise in the purchasing of canned goods, due to the financial constraints of the cost of living crisis. And don’t even get me started on the rental crisis.
Brielle is definitely not the only gen Zer who had a good cry about the difficulties of adulting. Most of us who can are moving back in with our parents. Unfortunately, those unable to do so have been left with no choice but to succumb to the extortion that the current rental market represents.
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Next to this, we are also facing a mental health crisis around work. In May, a distressing report on UK employees’ mental health by Wysa showed that around 35 per cent of employees are suffering from moderate to severe symptoms of depression or anxiety. Further, a third claim to be most stressed the night before they start their working week. Lastly, burnout from workplace stress is at an all-time high since spring 2021, according to new research from Future Forum.
Gen Zers are definitely not here to romanticise the 9 to 5 grind, girl bossing, or hustle culture. We are a generation that has become increasingly disillusioned with the lie that work should define our existence, or that only hard work and persistence can propel us towards all our hopes and dreams. After all, there’s a reason so many of us have a thing against entitled nepo babies. They are a symbol of our broken meritocracy and the shattered utopian capitalist dream.
We spend 60 to 70 per cent of our waking hours at work. In a lot of ways, our lives are constructed around it. However, work provides very few of the pleasures and financial benefits it used to. We work to be able to live, but work, in its current format, is not affording that. A lot of us are just grinding away and hoping that it will get better with no real improvements in sight.
However, every time gen Zers complain about these issues, we are branded as unproductive, lazy, undisciplined, entitled and out of touch with the real world, like Brielle. This is far from the truth, with a lot of research showing that gen Zers are actually highly motivated to advance in their careers.
“Work is religion, and any time a religion is threatened, the people who believe in that religion get really mad,” historian Ben Hunnicutt stated.
This isn’t about motivation, it’s about work being outdated. It does not appropriately cater to the demands of our modern society anymore. Instead of hating us for pointing this out, it would be smarter for the government and corporations to hear us out and find ways to update and reinvigorate our work life and work culture.