The pandemic changed the way we work, with more people opting for online or “hybrid” schedules, office buildings emptying, and boundaries between work and other aspects of life starting to get blurred. But what is the general attitude towards work in the United States? According to Simone Stolzoff, author of the forthcoming The Good Enough Job, Americans are turning to their careers like people used to turn to religion: for meaning and a sense of self-worth. This new secular religion is called “workism.” In an interview with Wired, Stolzoff said,
[Workism] is treating work akin to a religious identity. It’s looking to work not just for a paycheck but also for a community, a sense of identity and purpose and meaning in your life. There are a few risks to that. One is that it’s just not a burden our jobs are designed to bear. When we look to work for transcendence, it creates these massive expectations, and jobs can’t always deliver on those expectations. A second risk is that over-investing in just one aspect of who we are is risky because those other aspects of our life might be underinvested in. We’re not just workers, we’re also friends, siblings, parents, neighbors, and citizens.Tech Layoffs Reveal America’s Unhealthy Obsession With Work | WIRED
This exaggerated view of work as self-actualization, which is foreign to millions of people who work mainly to survive, is popular in Big Tech companies. Tech executives often like to think of their work as pioneering a path into the future, and that being a part of the mission is the sole privilege of an employee’s life. Stolzoff continued,
This is something that so many tech workers in particular have discovered recently, especially at companies like Meta and Twitter and Microsoft and other places that have had layoffs. I’ve spoken to so many employees that say, basically, “I used to think this was my life’s work, my dream job, and the past year has shown me that this is just a job.”
All those companies are experiencing fairly massive layoffs; with tech work as the new religion, how will those ex-employees move forward? For Stolzoff, having a proper perspective of work alongside the other good things in life, like family, community, and rest, is a good start.