If you look at a newspaper or the internet, you'd be forgiven for thinking that half the global population of working age had vanished into the ether. Not a day goes by that there isn't an article about people no longer wanting to work, or employers struggling to find new people.
They're half-right: Three years of a global pandemic showed how easy it was to work from home, and did result in over 6,000,000 deaths, about 25% of those being people of working age, most of them "Essential" workers who didn't have the option of working from home. Retail, healthcare and hospitality staff, teachers and cleaners, drivers and transport workers; underpaid and underappreciated, but without whom supply lines and society in general quickly start to notice the lack. Those that survived re-evaluated their worth, and many started looking for jobs that valued them accordingly.
Australia in particular is facing a perfect storm: Strikes by Teachers, Nurses and Care Workers, and now Transport Unions. Those strikes were delayed during the Lockdowns, as governments successfully argued that strikes in the middle of a pandemic posed an unreasonable burden on the most vulnerable. Now, they're hitting full-force.
There is also talk of a "new trend": Quiet Quitting.
As numerous articles have explained, "Quiet Quitting" is a phenomenon where workers have decided that there's more to life than work, and started enforcing a work/life separation. They've stopped doing unpaid overtime, they arrive and leave exactly when their contract says they should, they've stopped coming in on their days off, they don't take on extra projects or tasks that aren't part of the job description, they don't stay overtime for non-essential meetings... anything that isn't part of their actual job that they're being paid for, doesn't get done by them.
Frankly, it's hilarious to me.
That isn't "Quiet Quitting", that's a time-honoured Union tactic known as "Work To Rule", usually coming into play when there's a dispute about pay or wage theft. Some Reddit threads may know it better as 'Malicious Compliance', just without the overt hostile intent.
I'm one of the millions who live with an invisible disability. Burnout is something I have to be constantly on the watch for, because I have a lower threshold for it, and a healthy work/life balance has always been a huge part of that. It's hard enough for to hold down a job at all, and this culture of 'going above and beyond' being considered the bare minimum is a huge part of why.
When everyone else at the company is doing hours of extra work, and I'm not, Managers have an immediate excuse for claiming that I have "a bad attitude" or am not pulling my weight, while I struggle to explain why taking on extra hours isn't an option for me.
I don't answer my work phone on my days off, and once I'm home and changed out of my work clothes, that's it for the day. If my manager needs to talk to me, they can call while I'm on the clock, not at 9pm or 6am on my day off. There were times in 2020 when I was only home long enough for six hours of sleep and maybe a quick shower, and I'm not exaggerating when I say that it nearly did me in.
Of course, when you're used to being party to your own exploitation, and particularly when you've spent the last three years taking on extra tasks because understaffing means that if you don't do it, no-one will, Working To Rule can feel like slacking off.
It's fine to grumble about skyrocketing prices and long lines, and even about delays. You can even complain (quietly and out of earshot) about trainees who are clearly on their first day of work, and why the company was too cheap to pair them with a mentor.
But stop shaming workers for refusing to allow themselves to be exploited.
I'm not normally so blatant, but money is going to be tight for a bit, so if you're able to leave a tip, pledge support, or even share this around for extra reads, I'd appreciated it.
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