31 May 2023

'Bare minimum Mondays' and 'quiet quitting' - this generation is working to live, not living to work

| Zoya Patel
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There’s always the risk that ‘bare minimum’ will be taken too literally. Photo: File.

In the age of burnout, the collective conversation about work has switched from being about succeeding in our careers at all costs to one that prioritises balance and boundaries.

For my parents’ generation, and indeed even my older siblings’ generation, the epitome of middle-class success was not just having a liveable income, it was demonstrating career achievements that went beyond the average – senior positions, promotions, high-intensity workloads, businesses that dominated our time. These were all things that were posited as markers of success.

Not that long ago, we were in the cult of busyness, with people going to great lengths to express how busy they were, as though being stressed and time-poor were signals of importance and success. This was reinforced by workplaces rewarding employees who worked extra hours, logged on at the weekend, and put their work life ahead of their home life.

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Fast forward to the post-pandemic world, and the shift has been seismic. Instead of work being the priority at all costs, we’re now openly exploring how to flip this rhetoric and instead place work alongside other key elements of a well-rounded life as one of many important factors that contribute to overall well-being.

Notably, there has also been a more interrogative approach to understanding work and its role in our lives, acknowledging that the capitalist grind that values human labour in terms of output over all else is not OK and calling out businesses and employers who prioritise profits over their employees.

First, we had ‘quiet quitting’. The movement kicked off in America and encouraged minimum and low-wage workers, who were unable to leave their jobs, to instead dial back their engagement to only their core responsibilities, letting go of overtime labour and going above and beyond where it wasn’t being rewarded with corresponding improvements to their pay or conditions.

Now, we have ‘bare minimum Mondays’ – an Aussie manager apparently introduced this concept to her team, encouraging them to ease into the work week by doing only the necessities on a Monday, not having any scheduled meetings, and encouraging a ‘less is more’ attitude.

Unsurprisingly, there was an immediate backlash when this story went public from a more ‘traditional’ type of employer, with claims that the concept is ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled’ behaviour from Gen Z employees.

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I can see both sides of the coin here. It’s all well and good to encourage a more empathetic and relaxed approach to work for better staff well-being, but like most managers, I’ve also had the unpleasant experience of managing underperformers, and there’s always the risk that ‘bare minimum’ will be taken too literally.

However, the general assumption that Gen Z employees want to protect their mental health at work and have some balance is lazy, reductive and misses the point. In fact, it plays into the convenient narrative that employers want to promote – that working hard to the point of burnout is a sign of high performance and dedication, whereas creating balance and space in your work life is naive and immature.

What if, instead of seeing these trends as a sign of the younger generation’s failures, we see it as an opportunity to drastically reframe how we value human time as a society? I would much rather live in a world where our value and worth are based not only on our economic capacity and output but also on how we engage with our communities. Imagine if less time being stressed about work opened up the avenue for more people to volunteer, play sport, spend time with friends, make art, etc.

Yes, there are job requirements in any paid role that require certain outputs, and it’s not unreasonable for employers to expect those needs to be met. But in many industries, our work culture has swung way past the point of reasonable expectations and into the territory of work bleeding into life in a way that curtails the capacity and energy for people to do much else outside of their paid hours.

Maybe instead of rolling our eyes at Gen Z, we should take a step back and ask ourselves why we ascribe value and maturity to people who put paid work above all else to the detriment of their happiness and label the desire for balance and boundaries as entitled. There’s definitely immaturity at play here, just maybe not in the direction you assume.

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You are only hurting yourself when you don’t do the best possible job you can do. It’s not about your employer, it’s about your own growth. Do your best, always.

devils_advocate12:33 pm 05 Jun 23

The term “quiet quitting” is capitalist propaganda.

The correct term is “acting your wage”.

Why should employers feel entitled to employers going beyond the work they’re being paid for? This entitlement mentality is disgusting.

In any case, I prefer “overwork” (simultaneously working multiple salaried jobs). Don’t do it myself, but over the years I have used my salaried down-time to study and build my business.

HiddenDragon7:30 pm 01 Jun 23

What’s being talked about here is essentially a renamed and reorganized version of what, in more forthright times, was called bludging – easier to get away with when, as now, the official unemployment rate started with a 3 or even, to go back several decades, with a 2, but (human nature being what it is) it did not stop when economic times got tougher.

Unadorned, it was a common theme in popular culture – Magda Szubanski’s glorious suburban gothic creation Lynne Postlethwaite was a perfect example of a type who never had to quietly quit because they never really started –


So much more entertaining, and closer to life, than having it dressed up with aroma therapy and tantric healing of micro-aggressions.

How all of this survives in a world where the tidal wave of debt-funded liquidity which has, for years now, covered a multitude of sins in our economy, starts to recede – at the same time as the AI beast is stirring – remains to be seen.

I appreciate that this is an opinion piece, but like any opinion piece it’s based on a single supposition – basically, that life priorities have changed with newer generations. This has been clear over the last decade, with the pandemic merely fast-tracking the shift away from the office, encouraged by emerging technologies to better support a work-from-home model. That noted, I do believe it’s a different world now to that of our parents, where it was possible to buy a home and to have an actual career, and I am concerned with the pressure on newer generations to live and grow.

Regardless, the other side of the coin is that which greater emphasis on “me”, commitment to the employer and work place and to help them achieve Their goals has become somewhat of a casualty. This may also lead to complacency and a lack of innovative thinking, especially in retail and hospitality.

By way of example, some of my friends manage retail stores and they report the same thing with their casuals: reliability for rosters (with unplanned “mental health days” or similar) is a concern, and the amount of over-sight required to keep them fully occupied (and off their phones) is often high. However, I appreciate this is not representative of many, and may be specific to those sectors.

A reflection of how rich we have become as a society that we can just autopilot our days at work without any semblance of productivity. Please don’t ever tell me tales of everyone doing it tough and struggling with costs of living again!

Haha, this comment from a person who freely admits earning large sums of money through property investments and passive income. Productivity? hahaha.

Chewy do you have a problem with private investment? Are mum and dad investors allowed to own shares, property and other assets that earn passive income or should all the companies be nationalised and housing stock own and controlled by the government? My investments put a roof over people’s heads which is more than most can say.

I’ve got nothing against private investment, I just find it amusing for you to talk about average workers lack of “productivity” whilst you claim to receive so much of your income from tax advantaged capital investments that provide almost no economic productivity gains themselves.

Investments that due to successive changes in tax policy have stacked the deck further in favour of capital over labour, making it even harder for those average workers to build similar wealth themselves.

Haha chewy you are going to struggle to convince anyone that providing a housing service is not productive. Why do we count rental income in GDP? What about water, electricity and gas. Other essential services that if privatised are no longer of economic value add to society because it was a god-given right in the first place! Sure, go ahead and only count your streaming services, lattes and EVs as productivity in your left wing hippie communes!

Seeing as the vast majority of property investment is on existing properties, I won’t have a hard time convincing anyone of that at all.

In fact, due to the increasing amount of capital tied up in housing (through artificially increased prices) rather than other, actual productive areas of the economy, it can be argued its a significant drag on economic productivity.

And I have no idea where you’ve gone with the rest of your comment but I’m happy for you/sorry it happened.

Chewy, have a guess where price appreciation comes from. Things don’t magically become more and more expensive on their own. As Friedman describes it’s caused by “too much money chasing after too few goods”. The government had to turn on the money printers during the pandemic to hand welfare cheques out to people who otherwise were sitting idly at home in lockdown. They then spent this money on new TVs, cafes, restaurants and EVs lining the pockets of corporations. So the only unproductive element in the equation is the people on welfare doing absolutely diddly squat!

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