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The Religion of Work and How You Can Manage It

Hannah Greenwood

Hannah Greenwood

millennials at work

millennials at workAll employees, but particularly millennials at work, worship at the altar of their occupation every day. It’s how we make a living. But what happens when this religion of work goes too far and absorbs all aspects of our lives?

“We’ve created this idea that the meaning of life should be found in work.” – Oren Cass, author of The Once and Future Worker (The Atlantic)

In 2019, can millennials (or anyone, really) honestly say that work is just work? That we can walk away from it at any time and not worry we’ll be viewed as lazy, unambitious and entitled? I think there’s something to be said about this. Workism has been identified as the unofficial religion millennials at work follow, some more faithfully than others.

Now, there is nothing wrong with hard work but, according to Derek Thompson at The Atlantic, “a culture that funnels its dreams of self-actualization into salaried jobs is setting itself up for collective anxiety, mass disappointment, and inevitable burnout.” This worship of the holy, always-working-hard-worker has become a topic of discussion, a debate, between Thompson and Daniel Engber at Slate regarding whether the religion of Workism will be the downfall of generations to come. They both agree that millennials are the most educated and underpaid generation, but they disagree on if those factors are making us work obsessed.  Engber suggests, “Maybe the growth in hours among well-educated professionals derives from this group’s rigid faith in work for work’s own sake. The pursuit of their careers has turned into a search for deeper meaning.”

Millennials at Work and the ‘Hustle’


The millennial generation is driven by the idea of the ‘hustle’ mindset and how you can prove that success through social media.  When you click the share button on a motivational video that screams, “don’t stop working on yourself, even after you punch out at the day job,” it becomes embedded in your mind that even after the workday is complete, you still need to be a better you. A.K.A. millennials at work must keep hustling, keep working, and never stay stagnant.

employee benefits programs planningHow can we balance this idea of work hard and play hard without tipping the seesaw?  It’s easier said than done.

1. Teach yourself to take breaks, vacations, time off

We’ve all had that instance where we ate our lunch at our desk instead of taking a break on a busy day at work. This needs to stop. Allow yourself to take a break, even if it is just a 15-minute walk to the corner store or some exercises at your desk. Vacations also need to be taken advantage of – this time allows you to refresh your mind.

2. Be productive, not busy

When you are constantly busy, you will be more successful, right? Wrong. The idea of being busy doesn’t always mean you are accomplishing your goals. Learn to be more productive, and by productive, I mean complete tasks in a meaningful way that is also time efficient. Delegate the mundane tasks and focus on the important projects that will pay off in the end.

3. Forget about social media ‘hustlers’

We all have the ‘go-getters,’ the ‘boss babes’ and the ‘motivated’ people flooding our social pages that badger you about being the best you can be by making work into your ‘passion.’ Okay, enough air quotes. When you see these individuals on your feeds, remember – you don’t need to make work your life. You can have hobbies and a family life that also fulfills you. Don’t let others make you feel like you’re not successful because you aren’t posting a photo of your desk and coffee cup on Instagram.

4. Break the stigma of not working enough

Outside influences can make you feel guilty about not working enough but what about inside influences like your coworkers or your family? On the weekends, you decide not to check your email until Monday and spend some quality time with your family. Your co-worker tells you that they started a proposal Sunday evening because they feel guilty for taking a break. This is where the stigma of not being busy needs to be put to rest. Remind yourself and those around you that it’s okay to take time for yourself and to never feel guilty about silencing your phone for a day or skipping out on scanning your inbox (especially on days when you’re not obligated to work in the first place).

Overall, work is meant to be work – yes, you should enjoy it and work hard at it, but it should not become your life. We need to break the idea of Workism and this obsessive lifestyle of all work, no play. Embrace breaks and time away, learn to be productive not busy, ignore the ‘hustlers’ and try to remind yourself and others to relax once in a while.  When you can achieve balance between work and your personal life, you have succeeded.  Not because you logged 50 hours a week in the office, but because you can honestly say you’re happy and enjoying everything the world has to offer.

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