Busy woman working, looking stressed and burnt out

#IDontDreamOfLabour: meet the women turning their backs on the 9-5 for good

Burnt out and hating the 9-5? Carly Lewis-Oduntan speaks to the women who are turning their backs on capitalism in pursuit of a happier, well-rounded life away from work. 

Social media trends typically provide either sheer entertainment value or act as a digital mouthpiece for discourse around any and every type of societal issue. 

The #IDontDreamOfLabour hashtag is no different, falling into the latter category and providing a platform through which Gen Zs and millennials can speak candidly about their disdain for the 9-5 life and question the romanticised concept of a ‘dream job’.

It’s believed the phrase ‘I don’t dream of labour’ was first coined by a Twitter user back in 2019, long before the words crept their way across the lips of revved-up young YouTubers venting their frustrations and disillusions with working life.

People like Taja who mused, “Why should I have to sacrifice the things that make me happy just so I can survive?” or Natasha, who admitted, “I’m finally giving myself permission to admit that I’m tired of working my life away,” and Adrene who concluded, “I want to have a lifestyle where I prioritise my mental and my physical health.”

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As recently as a decade ago, our attitude to work was practically the polar opposite.

Remember phrases like ‘hustle harder’, ‘rise and grind’ and #TeamNoSleep? They’ve now been replaced with self care, wellness and mental health awareness, meaning the relentless pursuit to achieve society’s definition of success and the glorification of perpetual busyness are dwindling in the popularity stakes.

Living through the pandemic has undeniably contributed to this. Not only did many of us make the shift from office to home working, but we had more time on our hands to think about the things most important to us, including our careers – hence the birth of #IDontDreamOfLabour.

But the trend hasn’t come without criticism – the most obvious being that to simply quit a paying job, which for the vast majority is their sole source of income, is to be in a position of immense privilege. And while people like Lynette Adkins have been able to trade in employee life in order to become full-time content creators, this isn’t a viable option for the majority.

Despite its flaws, an increasing number of Gen Zs and millennials feel emboldened enough to let the world know that they have no desire to work, without fear of being called lazy, spoilt or any of the other deprecating descriptors they’re commonly labelled with.

“The contrast between 10 years ago, when I started my career, and what I thought I wanted compared to how things are now, is completely different,” says 33-year-old entrepreneur and founder of the Career Game Changer masterclass, Dels. “There’s been a shift in the way that we think about work.”

“A lot of the people I work with are young high achievers. The ones who got their first graduate jobs while they were at uni, came out and started working for the big banks, and then got burnt out and realised they needed to re-evaluate the dream.”

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Reconsidering the long-term plan is exactly what Adrene, 22, did after quitting her jobs as a lifeguard and swimming teacher before working at a Covid-19 test centre, which she described to Stylist as “the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life.”

When she switched on the camera to record her video, unapologetically titled i dont have a dream job, i don’t dream of labour, capitalism is killing us, she’d decided to bid farewell to employment, which she was fortunate enough to be able to do while still living at home, but five months later began working again.

“When I left the test centre I was like, ‘I’m completely committing to my spiritual path. I only want to do things that align with me.’ But I was forgetting that a part of spirituality is about bringing [the spiritual] to the material world. And what is the material world right now? It’s work. So I actually really recently got a new job,” she says.

Though she admits that she still holds “the exact same views” as she did when she first made her video, she’s learned that she needs balance. “Your creative passions aren’t always going to give you income straight away, and you have to be flexible and understand that there’s a reason for that and there are other avenues that can help you support your passions.”

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Victoria, 24, is another YouTuber whose video The reality of working full-time has racked up close to 70,000 views. Though she uploaded the video three years ago when working in retail, her sentiments are almost identical to those expressed in many of the #IDontDreamOfLabour videos posted this year, and it still garners new comments daily.

She tells Stylist: “Some people say this is a bit dark, but I feel like if I genuinely had the choice to be born, I don’t think I would have taken it. If you would have told me in the womb, ‘This is what your life is going to look like, and that 80% of it is going to be you working just to be able to live comfortably,’ I’d have just said, ‘I’ll pass.’”

What it means to work in the present day is continuously evolving. The internet has presented a swathe of career opportunities that didn’t previously exist, the gig and creator economies are in full swing, and though the solo self-employment population decreased last year, lots of us still aspire to become our own boss.

And as the structure of the workforce continues to diversify, it’s not unreasonable to predict a rise in more attainable and realistic alternatives to the rat race for future generations. Guess we’ll just have to watch this space.

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