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Posted on 24 November 2022

​The working world has been a very popular topic of conversation recently. From hybrid-working to quiet quitting, we are now in an age that some have labelled “The Age of Anti-Ambition”. This stems from the recent shift in attitudes to work; with the rise in hybrid-working and flexible work hours, it is evident that work-life balance has become a priority for many people.


The sudden outbreak of Covid-19 meant that many had to switch from their usual office environment and work from home for a period, but now that the world has returned to a more ‘normal’ way of living; it seems the flexibility that working from home offered is something that workers are not ready to give up. In a survey carried out in February 2022, 84% of workers in Britain who worked from home during lockdown said they would prefer a hybrid pattern of working. The current workforce are not the only ones that believe an importance should be placed on separating your personal and work life; surveys show that many young people believe work-life balance is vital and would like the opportunity to work from home in future.


Shorter office hours, remote working and different patterns of working have become quite the trend, there are many surveys and experiments being conducted to gather data around this topic. Over 70 companies in the UK are currently taking part in a six-month global experiment which began in June run by thinktank Autonomy. Those participating in the experiment have agreed that all employees will work 4 days a week for the duration of six months with no deduction from their pay. The purpose of this experiment is to see the effects on employee satisfaction, teamwork, and company commitment. As a result of this experiment, nearly 90% of companies said that they will continue 4-day working weeks after the trial ends.


Recently, we have also seen the emergence of the term “quiet quitting” which feeds further into the theory that we are in an age where people lack ambition. Quiet quitting is when a worker agrees to only do what they get paid for at work, refusing to do more than what is stated in their job description. Reasons for quiet quitting can be from avoiding burnout and making a distinct divide between work and personal life to being unsatisfied with a job and therefore, decide not to do more than expected. There are conflicting opinions on quiet quitting; it is a positive thing for some, whereas others see quiet quitters as disengaged employees.


But does implementing firmer boundaries at work and flexible working mean people are becoming less ambitious? Are workers truly losing the desire for corporate progression? Is the age of anti-ambition an accurate reflection of the current times?


Some people agree that we are indeed in the age of anti-ambition. They believe that the desire for corporate progression is dying as more people are switching careers, voicing their desires for greater flexibility within their jobs and enforcing stricter boundaries. Almost 500,000 more people were in paid work before the pandemic compared to the first quarter of this year, the increased number of people leaving the UK workforce is because of older workers retiring early. The upsurge of workers going into early retirement coupled with quiet quitting, hybrid working, and the like has raised alarm bells for people; growing concerns about what the future of the labour force will look like.

In contrast, others believe this is an unfair title. Many have taken to social media to express that workers have not become lazy or lost their ambition. People have begun to question why ambition is only attributed to professional success and why switching careers and early retirement is being viewed as a negative thing. The pandemic was a big reminder that the things and people we care about are important things that can easily get neglected. This is a major factor in the emergence of quiet quitting and people leaving the workforce to retire early or pursue a career doing something they would not have done otherwise.


People are more determined than ever to not only work in a job they enjoy but ensure they have enough time to do things they love outside of their work environment. As a result, we have seen the number of hybrid workers and people going into early retirement rise. Success looks different to everyone, and if that is the case, can it really be measured? Is “the age of anti-ambition” a fair title? There are so many conflicting opinions about whether the age of anti-ambition has dawned on us, but one thing is for sure; things are changing but change is inevitable.

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