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Why are wellbeing experts concerned about the ‘lazy girl job’ trend?

Social media’s latest careers buzzword is not quite what it seems, writes Abi Jackson.

Abi Jackson
Tuesday 22 August 2023 12:12 BST
The trend highlights the toxic side of modern working culture (Alamy/PA)
The trend highlights the toxic side of modern working culture (Alamy/PA)

Have you clocked TikTok’s “lazy girl job” trend? It’s all about prioritising work-life balance over a job that drains you dry.

A “lazy girl job” is one that pays well enough for you to live comfortably – but doesn’t need to define your entire self-worth and consume too much of your time and energy.

On the surface, this all sounds quite healthy, a backlash to the always-on ‘hustle culture’ that’s become ingrained in the modern world. So, why are wellbeing experts concerned?

Work-life balance isn’t lazy

“Turning your back on hustle culture shouldn’t be deemed ‘lazy’,” Tina Woods, CEO of Business for Health, a business-led coalition focused on improving workforce health, told PA Media.

“A healthy work-life balance should be encouraged, rather than shamed, and employees shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed for prioritising their wellbeing and mental health over their work duties and workload.”

So, it’s not so much the concept behind ‘lazy girl jobs’ that’s problematic. Rather, it’s the use of the word ‘lazy’ to describe somebody who works a reasonable number of hours and values their wellbeing, and the reasons we got to this point in the first place.

Have we normalised overworking?

There may be times when people need or choose to hustle, or devote a larger chunk of their time towards a particular goal. That’s not something we need to sweepingly demonise necessarily.

“Just as we shouldn’t shame employees who do set boundaries in the workplace and [want] a healthy work-life balance, there will be some employees who enjoy ‘hustle culture’,” Woods added. “Ultimately, employees should have the choice and flexibility to work how they choose to.”

What isn’t good though is how “overworking” has become “expected” as part of modern working culture, she explained.

We’re seeing a growing culture of overworking being celebrated...

Tina Woods, Business for Health CEO

“Hustle culture has grown in popularity since the pandemic, with side hustles on the rise amongst employees, especially Gen Z. However, the notion of pushing yourself and putting your all into your work can cause both physical and mental effects. It can lead to a toxic working pattern and trigger stress and burnout, as well as physical ailments such as disrupted sleep patterns and exhaustion,” said Woods.

“More often, we’re seeing a growing culture of overworking being celebrated and, in many situations, expected. Whether this presents itself through staying at the office late, or not taking a lunch break or annual leave, working tirelessly is being rewarded by some seniors, and it shouldn’t become the norm.”

What does this mean for young women?

The fact the trend has been centred on ‘girls’ is another point of consideration.

“Traditionally, women and especially mothers have faced stigma in the workplace. This includes stigma around personality traits, maternity leave and women’s health. As a result, many female employees will feel the need to push themselves harder or work longer hours than their male peers,” said Woods.

“Women and parents are more likely to report lower mental health, putting them more at risk for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. This, coupled with the pressure women may already feel at work and stigma, such as the latest ‘lazy girl job’ trend, means employers need to ensure they’re creating a supportive work culture and healthy environment.”

Culture shift

According to Woods, there is a responsibility for employers to drive cultural shifts towards a healthier approach to work with a focus on preventative measures, rather than waiting until employees are encountering problems such as burnout or chronic stress, and then responding.

“Setting boundaries that lead to a healthy work-life balance is something that should be encouraged in the workplace. It’s clear that post-pandemic, the boundaries have become blurred, with many adapting to hybrid and remote working. However, this is an issue employers need to make a priority,” said Woods. “By doing so, workplaces will see higher levels of presenteeism, alongside boosted morale, engagement and productivity. In a tight labour market, attracting and retaining employees is also vital. Wellbeing plays a big role in that.

“Policies such as ‘Permission to Pause’ can be really powerful in encouraging a healthy work-life balance. They give employees autonomy and the ability to stop and take some time for their wellbeing within the working day, without feeling guilty,” she added.

“Perhaps, most importantly of all, employers need to listen and respond to the needs of their own workforce and sector, recognising there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to health and wellbeing, because everyone is uniquely human. Business leaders, HR managers and line managers can work to better understand the needs of their workforce through pulse surveys, interviews, and open forums.”

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