Raise your hands if you’ve seen the TikTok of a newly graduated student crying when she realises the working week’s actually pretty rubbish.
The now viral video that sees TikToker Brielle discuss her frustration at realising how much she has to sacrifice to earn a living doing the 9-5. From having to let go of time in the gym to cook, clean and maintain her wellbeing. For her, it all becomes too much.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, people have chosen to scoff and laugh at the Gen-zer. One user said; “This generation is completely doomed. They can’t even hold a 9-5 job without having a mental breakdown.”
But, many have rushed to her defence, saying, “People making fun of the girl crying about working 9-5 while simultaneously ‘bragging’ about how many hours they’ve worked for however many years is really, really pathetic. [Sic] Yall are completely missing the point and actually making things worse for everyone.”
And, “Why are we bashing on the girl for being upset about slaving away to capitalism for the rest of her life? It’s not even a 9-5 anymore. It’s 8-5 plus commute. We should all be crying with her because it’s not right.”
Truth is, “real life” can really suck. Most of us actually don’t have time to head to the gym or cook a balanced dinner. Work may have become less physically dangerous in recent years, but there has been a rise in the intensity of work, which has a tremendously negative effect on our mental health. And it’s happening across the board. So, Brielle has every right to feel hard done by — we’re all hard done by under capitalism.
But, is the 9-5 no longer fit for purpose? If so — what’s standing in our way of a more equitable working model, exactly?
There’s no denying that Gen-Zers are up against it. With the cost of living crisis threatening to quash access to dream careers and a strong moral compass preventing compromising on ethics and morals, putting your best foot forward at work is becoming more difficult.
What can we do about it?
This year, a new law was passed, the Employment Relations (Flexible Working) Act 2023.
The government describe flexible working as “a way of working that suits an employee’s needs, for example having flexible start and finish times, or working from home.”
This means that in the UK, workers have the right to request flexible working from day one of a new job. And, employers are required to consider any requests and provide a reasonable reason before rejection.
Some light at the end of the tunnel, at least.
However, there are no guarantees flexible working will be granted, especially if the company has a “good business reason” for denying the application. If you feel this decision is unfair, you can take it to a tribunal – but even Acas advise that this can be ‘time consuming and difficult for everyone involved’.
For many people, flexible working offers solutions. From working “term time”, “part-time” or changing start and finishing times.
Currently, 51% of UK employees say they have flexible working arrangements in place with their employer, and, according to The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), this number looks set to grow. They’ve reported that, in the last six months, more than a third of organisations have seen an increase in requests for flexible working.
In their 2021 report, CIPD highlighted where companies were getting hybrid, flexible working right. One such organisation is Blood Cancer UK. Lisa Freshwater, charity director of organisational effectiveness told the report;
“It does require a step-change in how people work. You hear people [outside the organisation] saying, ‘Let’s get back to normal!’ But lockdowns have provided a great opportunity to actually take the positives and create something very different. People here have got more choice now. It’s all about how you treat people, so they feel valued and are able to do their best work.”
So, while flexible working shows no signs of slowing down and, is proving to improve effective both where productivity and retention are concerned, it’s just the beginning.
“I like to call it inclusive working. Are you trying to include those with caring responsibilities? Those with disabilities? Everyone you possibly can, into your company?”
Whitehouse explains that it’s within business interests to look at ways to bring inclusive working into practice.
In another post to her Instagram account, Whitehouse shares just how much thanklessness goes into child-rearing, saying, “It’s time to normalise employment gaps. It’s time to value (and promote) part-time workers. Caring for someone isn’t ‘time out’ of the workforce. It’s time invested in raising someone higher than your exhaustion, higher than your hunger, higher than your needs - it’s raising the next generation.”