The virus outbreak made us rethink our priorities and question everything. It woke us up to the realities of our existence. We had a collective existential crisis. Is this all there is—a long commute, eight-plus hours in an office, then returning home exhausted? This is repeated over and over again for decades.
It takes a toll, especially if you don’t like your job, have a bad boss and are treated horribly. Mental health issues are at record levels. Feelings of burnout, anxiety and isolation are all too common. People are pushing for change.
Millions of Americans quit their jobs in the Great Resignation, as they no longer want to be taken advantage of. The CEO takes home multimillion-dollar paydays and the average worker just gets enough to barely scrape by.
To gain a better sense of what people are feeling, and how they will act differently once the outbreak is behind us, I checked out Reddit. Usually, for my pieces, I’d turn to LinkedIn, and gauge the market sentiment from the largely white-collar workers that the social media platform caters to.
Recently, Reddit was one of the biggest topics of conversation over its r/WallStreetBets subreddit, which shared meme stocks that rocketed in value. People loved the underdog story of novice traders besting the arrogant, experienced, big-money hedge funds. The site surged in popularity and has over 430 million monthly active users posting on more than 100,000 active communities. It’s ranked among the most popular social networks worldwide, and a wide array of people from all walks of life frequent and comment on the site.
I was intrigued by a posting from a user who asked, “What’s one thing we did before the pandemic that even if the world went back to normal you wouldn’t do again?”
The consensus from over 12,000 comments showed that people don’t want to commute to an office, as they desire remote-work options, want to feel appreciated, are tired of playing the status game and are done with the hustle-porn office mindset.
Here are some representative answers that are raw and honest.
Tired Of Being Overworked And Underappreciated
“I’m a nurse. I love my job. Placing my job before my family and my good friends. Done with everyday. Filling in for no-shows. Existing on chimichangas and Death Wish coffees. One restroom break per shift. Sleeping only four hours on work days (14-hour shifts; sometimes 24 hours), only to sleep the day and nights away when off. Being hit, bitten, groped and cursed out. I’ve missed birthdays and graduations. Missed out on a lot of living. These last two years really did me in. Tired of being sick and tired. I love my family and my physical and mental health more. At least now I do. More than ever before. Live, and let live.”
No More Commuting Into The Office
- “Commute to work one-and-a-half hours each way, five days a week, so I can sit in my office and write emails and talk on the phone. This is my biggest one. I never realized how stressful it made my day just to drive to an office until I stopped doing it. Our office location is about 35 minutes away on a very, very hectic highway where a ton of crashes happen daily.”
- “I work just as well from home (if not better) and there’s no room at the office for all of us anyway because we rent a spot in a shared space. It’s useful for conferences and depositions, but that’s it. I will never go back to working on location.”
- “Commuting is a huge time killer. Is it the company’s time? No. Is it your leisure time? No. It’s just ‘f**k you, let’s waste this for no reason’ time.”
- “Haha, the truth. I’ve already commented on other posters with similar thoughts, but man, the whole commuting just to send emails to people one floor up and attend meetings held for the sake of holding a meeting is soul-crushing. One of the best things coming out of the pandemic must be how utterly pointless most of our working days are (at least in the white-collar world) and now we have evidence to take action.”
- “Daily commute. Our company is committed to three days a week max in the office. I’ve been in twice since the pandemic and the colossal amount of wasted time really stunned me.”
Won’t Miss The Office Culture
- “Work in open offices. They were waking nightmares for me, even before, what with no privacy, routinely being a dull roar and requiring noise-cancelling headphones to be able to think clearly, and I f**king hate bosses watching me like buzzards eyeing a dying water buffalo. Now that I’ve worked remotely for years, including now for an absurdly well-known company, I ain’t coming back to your dogsh*t open offices. I’ll come back if you give me my own office. Oh, you won’t give me one? And you want me in the office at least two days a week in Manhattan for your opportunity? Hard pass.”
- “The eight-hour workday model DOES NOT WORK. You have nine hours at work because of unpaid lunch, but is that really your free time? Nope. Hour and a half one way, so eat another three hours. Devote another two to fixing meals, doing laundry, other sh*t that needs to be done to get ready for the next day. Get enough sleep. Where’s the ‘me’ time? Oh, it SHOULD be that bullshit three hours of commute.”
- “Not just wasted time commuting, either! Wasted time picking out an outfit, grooming yourself, all these things we don’t usually do when we are home all day. Wasted time finding a parking spot. And then I can’t work late because if I don’t leave by 4 p.m. my commute time doubles. (At home, I take an hour lunch and work till 4:30 p.m. or until I finish whatever I’m working on, so sometimes later).”
Hustle-Porn Work Culture
- “Having a nonstop, out-all-day, go, go, go schedule. I understand now why I was constantly feeling frustrated. I was completely burnt out and had no me-time. Now I don’t make so many commitments to social events, work things, extra stuff and I can’t imagine ever stretching myself so thin again.”
- “For the life of me, I can’t remember what seemed so important.”
- “Go to work sick. At my last job, I went to work sick because I had no choice. Five sick days in a year? You’re fired. Thankfully, my new job doesn’t count sick days against you. You’re only paid for three per year, unless you use short-term disability, but you can take as many unpaid sick days off as needed within reason. Sick three days one month, another day next month and need to take your kid to a doctor then stay home with them the next month? That’s fine. Take care of yourself and your family. I will never go to work sick again.”
- “I’ve gone from being an overachiever hellbent on my career to basically doing whatever I can to extract money from employers with as little effort as possible. For those interested in the movement: r/antiwork.”
- “I think the idea of powering through was taught to us in grade school. My school had an award for zero days missed. This manipulated us to be good boys and girls to always show up. Not anymore!”
The Great Resignation
- “I just quit my job of 17 years for this. It was good when most people were remote and I was ‘essential,’ so needed to be in. There was a hard line. ‘Everyone in the office by September 1’ and suddenly everyone was back. After 18 months, everyone forgot their indoor voice. Then, there was the hacking, the coughing, the sneezing.”
- “I lucked out and found a fully remote job doing similar work at a different company, starting Monday.”
- “So, I recently changed career-path goals after being laid off—from being in a [system administrator] role for 15+ years (making about $60K) to pivoting to a sales engineer role. Throughout the five-plus months of being laid off and searching for a new job (I had some money in savings after trying to save for a house down payment, and was also receiving a severance pay from my former employer due to my tenure, so I had some runway to take my time learning up on the role I wanted, and to find a desirable company to work for), I interviewed with about 15 different companies. The standard pay for the role at the level I was going for (entry level, basically) was $100,000. This is the [on-target earnings], with a base pay of $70K + $30K commission, normal for the position. After interviewing well enough with about six to seven companies, and getting tired of the ‘what is your desired pay’ question, I decided to shoot for the stars. I told myself, ‘This next company, I’m just gonna say $120K and see what happens.’ Well, in the first call with them, they beat me to the punch. They straight up told me, ‘For this role, we are looking to pay between $150K to 170K.’ Holy sh*tb*alls. My immediate reaction was to play it cool, and I actually said aloud, ‘Oh, well, I was only going to ask for $130K, but that’s cool.’
Now, granted, I didn’t know the full story. It turns out, this was the only company across all that I interviewed with that would require me to move to a new city, specifically to work out of their office. I asked them, ‘What value do you guys see in bringing the workforce back to the office?’ They said, ‘Oh, no, 95% of the company is still going to be remote/WFH. We just want the few folks working on this team to be in the office because of synergy and whatnot.’ Now, I’m not interested in working in an office again, especially when the rest of the world seems to be catching on to how we can do our jobs just as well while WFH… but holy sh*t, for $150K, I’d be happy to live under my desk at work and shower in the break room, that’s legit life-changing money right there. I did go through all the interviews and did well enough, but I ultimately ended up receiving an offer from another company that allowed WFH full time, and their offer was $110K, so it was hard to turn down (the other company’s offer was great, but the city their office was in also has one of the highest [costs of living] in the country, so the pay maybe wouldn’t have been as notable). Anyway, to your point, yeah, I guess $150K would definitely be my minimum to want to work in an office again (which would be about three times more than my previous office position pay was).”
Work As An Identity
- “Treat my job title like it’s my family name? Nah, I give you labor and you give me money. That’s the extent of our relationship and much like anyone trading time for money, others will pay me for my time.”
- “Not a chance I will ever again bleed, sweat or cry for a fucking employer. Never ever again.”
- “I always considered my work ethic to be the best part of my value as a human, but after coming back from lockdown, I see employment completely differently. I recently passed up a promotion at work because it meant I would be doing both my current job and my former boss’ job at the same time (with even more probability to be contacted off-hours), and I only did the interview because I was asked to, and I wanted to tell the HR person how little I appreciated the company demanding more and more from its people. Not that it is going to make them change, of course, but I’m happy I got to speak my mind.”
- “I really REALLY love the accessibility of doing doctor visits over the phone or Zoom. I have to talk to a psychiatrist on the reg. SUPER hard for me to go out to do that. I have debilitating anxiety and going OUT to wait in waiting rooms, be seen crying as I leave a therapy session, hell, even just getting myself to shower, put on makeup and clean clothes…it’s f*cking impossible sometimes. Not to mention that I used to have to have my husband drive me into the city—a 45-minute drive—and take care of our young kids during my appointments. Then, make the drive back in traffic—all of which exacerbated my anxiety and guilt and fatigue. We’ve both been able to access our healthcare providers by Zoom and by phone. That was never an option before this. It has been amazing and honestly? The quality of our care is IMPROVED because we aren’t going through panic/dissociating/fatiguing/overstimulating crap just to GET to the appointments and so we are able to advocate for ourselves so much better.”
- “Member of a team that is responsible for getting an entire college’s faculty ‘online’ when Covid-19 hit. Months of Zoom training, [learning management system] training, workshops on how to keep classes engaging, etc. March to August 2020 was the literal and absolute worst-case scenario for my job. We pulled it off, proved it could be done, kept the faculty moving and that our job could 100% be completed from home. June 2021, blanket statement: ‘Everyone must return to campus.’ Brought up to our boss about how we can do our job from home, as proven, could we work out a WFH schedule (two to three days a week, using two days to meet with faculty who may require face-to-face)? ‘Sorry, college order.’ With that, since June, we’ve lost one-fifth of our team, and another one-third of people in IT. Most of my faculty/committee meetings are still via Zoom, faculty are hesitant to linger on campus or just ‘stop by’ the office and 100% of my job is still taking place online. Long story short: Yes. The age-old mentality of, ‘if you’re not here, you’re not working’ is a thought of the past and I think those places who are clinging to it, will find themselves short of talented individuals. I thought I was going to hate not having in-person relationships, but at this point, I have more time to have in-person relationships with people I actually like and choose to spend time with instead of those basically assigned to me.”
These were just a small sampling of the responses and comments. The takeaway is that people no longer feel that they have to live to work. They now know that things can be different. The work-from-home experiment over the last nearly two years showed that all of the standard policies and procedures were not necessary.
Remote workers proved that the concept works. The stock market keeps hitting new all-time highs. Real estate prices are blazingly hot. America has over 10 million job openings. The economy, for the most part, is going strong.
Workers have the power, and everyone knows it. Companies need to cater to their wishes to recruit and retain them. If they don’t enact employee-friendly changes, the best and brightest will leave. It’s a new era. This time period is one in which people don’t have to put up with nonsense. They’re not asking for too much. The responders to the initial question really only ask to be paid fairly and allowed to live a balanced life without ridiculous demands and edicts from old-school, out-of-touch bosses.