Jobs – who needs them! Well, as it stands: lots of us. On the other hand, apparently not the almost one in 20 workers in the UK who resigned over the pandemic – just one segment of the global workforce sacking off their professions and contributing to what’s been dubbed The Great Resignation.
Off the back of all this, a subreddit called r/antiwork has rocketed in numbers, with membership shooting up by over 800 percent since March of 2020. Aimed at “those who want to end work, are curious about ending work [and] want to get the most out of a work-free life”, the movement champions “unemployment for all, not just the rich”. So there’s that, too.
Given that something as arbitrary, seismic and traumatic as a pandemic has put so much into perspective, it’s unsurprising that the anti-work community has taken off in tandem with COVID-19. If the world can grind to a halt because of a random virus, why bother to continue working for a company who doesn’t care about you? Life’s too short! Fuck it!
Workers facing tyrant bosses, obscene hours and paper-thin pay packets are taking matters into their own hands by simply walking away. So: how does it feel to be part of The Big Quit? I asked to people who recently quit their shitty jobs about their last-straw moment.
Lucy, 22, Sheffield – Retail Assistant
I worked in retail at a pretty big fast fashion chain store for about three-and-a-half years. After [lockdown], when shops reopened, it was pretty grim. There were big groups of people quitting at the same time. Since stores opened up, there’s been so much pressure on managers and supervisors, then obviously that pressure gets unloaded onto the assistant staff.
The relationship between managers and staff just seemed to break down completely after the pandemic, and it meant that [retail] just wasn't a nice environment to work in. I decided that I didn't want to do it anymore and that I'd rather wait it out and get another job somewhere else, rather than stay. I felt so relieved after I'd quit. It was just so demanding, emotionally, mentally, physically, and to an extreme that I've not really experienced before.
Grace, 24, London – Recruitment Consultant
My previous job was in recruitment, and I was there for just under a year. I did really like it, but when I was working from home it became a bit of a drag. It was very target-driven – I’d have daily targets for the number of phone calls to make, client pitches to do, CVs to send to clients, then weekly targets for LinkedIn posts. This was obviously quite draining, because you couldn’t just log off at six if you hadn’t hit your targets. This was the main reason behind wanting to quit.
Once I quit I felt very relieved. I kind of had a job in a nursery lined up, but I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going to be doing. I was mainly relieved to be out of such a target-driven environment with very long hours. The actual hours were 8AM to 6PM, and my manager was great, but I became quite unwell with long COVID, so I struggled with that plus the target-driven environment. At the time, I thought my mental wellbeing was fine, but now I’m doing something I love, I’ve realised how much it was impacting me. I’m now doing a PGCE [a teacher training course] and feel so much better and have so much more energy.
Mikey, 22, Leeds – Bricklayer
I was a bricklayer for about four years. It was alright at first, but it progressively got worse. My boss at the time was a very difficult person to work for. He had zero patience, and although I was still young he would project 100 percent of his stress onto me, then blame myself and others if things went wrong. I suffered a string of severe anxiety attacks, which led to me not being able to work, and taking up therapy to try to make sense of how I felt, and how to deal with life during the pandemic. Unfortunately, my boss never understood any of this and would tell me to just “get on with it”. I felt very isolated, and as if I couldn’t speak to anyone at work about my issues, because most of them shared the same views towards mental health as my boss.
That was when I decided to leave and start afresh in an environment where I wouldn’t have to worry about opening up about my mental health. When I quit, I felt really good: I spoke to my boss and told him it was really bringing me down and really affecting my mental health quite badly. I now work in the events industry and I’m really enjoying it. It’s the happiest I’ve felt in a very long time.
Piers, 25, Leeds – Marketing Executive
I worked at a company that sold front doors and garage doors - very exciting stuff. I was there for about a year. The job actually was OK, but one day we got a new manager who made everyone's lives a lot harder. I was also marketing garage doors – the home improvement sector had a massive boom over the pandemic, so the bosses wanted to capitalise on that as much as possible. But that meant the quality of the garage doors really dropped, as we were getting cheaper materials. This led to a lot of angry customers calling up and even coming in, which made the environment very hostile, very quickly.
I was also constantly underpaid, and I always had to chase them for my money. Also, they didn’t take COVID seriously at all: we were pretty much forced to work in the office, which was sort of a massive kick in the teeth considering my dad actually died from COVID. As soon as I quit, I felt great.
Scarlett, 20, Sunderland – Bartender and Waitress
I worked as a bartender and waitress for about two years. On one match day, there was a large group of middle aged men and I brought shots to their table. One of the shots spilled and went down my leg. A sweaty, pissed old man decided to grab my leg and start rubbing it up and down to “help”. The boss was looking at me like I was stupid and telling me to calm down.
Later, the guy came up to the bar and I told him it was unacceptable to grab girls. But he started trying to hug me and rub my shoulders. I started raising my voice, as I was repeatedly telling him to stop and he wouldn’t get off, but my boss stood there just watching as I was getting upset.
For the next two weeks I got no shifts, even though I was living off that money, and I was eventually called in for an “informal chat”. They started drilling into me and I told them I didn’t want a job where the boss stands there and watches their staff be assaulted, then walked out. It was the right thing to do, and I’m proud I had the strength to walk out and say something back, when in the past I never would’ve had that confidence. If you’re ever under management that expect you to stand by and be sexually harassed or assaulted, don’t be afraid to stand your ground and tell them to fuck off.