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The rise of the anti-work movement

Many employees are frustrated with the nature of employment. But some fed-up workers are asking a bigger question: what’s the purpose of work?

By | Brian O’Connor |

Chris, a US-based IT professional, says he’s experienced terrible working conditions in his recent roles. He says two separate employers, one offering no sick pay and the other only a week’s worth of paid time off, forced him back to work despite illness. At other labour-intensive jobs, he says he’s ended up having to treat his own wounds.

But it was a role in customer support that pushed him too far. His job, which paid less than $13 (£9.40) an hour, involved verifying whether peoples’ dependents qualified for health-care insurance. He says he would have been fired if he had given callers certain helpful information he was not authorised to disclose, like how much time they had to submit their paperwork. 

“There were people literally begging for their lives on the phone, and I couldn’t do anything about it,” he says. “That broke me to a point where I realised that absolutely nothing in this system is working… It’s the lack of empathy and human kindness. I’m not sure how that went missing.”

Two years into the pandemic, employees across the globe are tired. Poor mental health and burnout are common, particularly among low-wage and essential workers. This prolonged period of uncertainty has made many re-examine the role their employers play in making matters worse; record numbers of workers are leaving jobs in search of better options.

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