If you haven’t heard about Lazy Girl Jobs yet, it’s probably because you’ve been at the beach and off your phone. The term popped up a couple of months ago on TikTok from Gabriella Judge, who offers tongue-in-cheek career and life advice targeted to young women, although there is nothing gender-specific about it. Judge basically points out the desirability of having a job that is not very demanding. A Google search shows 750,000 articles mentioning the phrase, most published within the last month.
As is often the case, virtually all of the commentators make a basic mistake in trying to explain it. They assume that something in the heads of young people is different now that makes them want easy jobs—specifically, white-collar jobs that do not offer much challenge or opportunity for advancement. The commentators fall back on the assumption that there must be a new generation with different views on everything. The mistake is called the Fundamental Attribution Error, which is to assume that people’s behavior is due to something inherent in them rather than caused by the circumstances around them.
Is the ‘Lazy Girl Job’ a sign of a new generation?
The basic notion that there are new generations—starting with Millenials, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z (soon we will need to move to numbers)—has been debunked by the National Academy of Sciences and every credible demographer. In this case, you just need to be paying a little attention to understand that this idea is absurd: Would we really get a new generation just in the last two years? Or is it more reasonable to think that something like a global pandemic, a historically tight job market, and especially a move to remote work might have created a different context that has some younger workers thinking differently about their future, something that might be true even for some older workers?
Here’s what is different about the context: For many people, the ability to work from home has made their work life much easier. Even if hours of work are up, the cost and stress of commuting are down and the drama of being in the office is down as well. A job that allows you to work from home is just a lot better for you, one might argue, and it might be possible to get it.
Less commuting, more living
There is another issue more sensitive to discuss, and that is whether performance management has become more lax since the pandemic, now in the remote work environment and a tighter job market. With good intentions, many employers are now willing to accommodate all kinds of employee concerns that affect getting work done. So you could get away with more. I was amused during the pandemic to find that satisfaction with supervisors rose even when (or perhaps because) we saw them less.
At the same time, office jobs that are being done remotely are just a lot less engaging because you aren’t in a community anymore. Unlike in the past, it is difficult to imagine that your social life is going to revolve around people that you interact with on Zoom. That means more energy to be devoted to life outside of work—even for people who want their work to be the focus of their lives.
A high-pressure, high-reward job that chases career advancement also seems more difficult to achieve now. The main reason, which isn’t new, is that corporate jobs have cut way back on internal promotions and development from within. Data from the Society for Human Resource Management indicates that we now fill fewer than about 25 percent of our vacancies from within. That is an enormous change from generations ago when all but entry-level positions were filled internally. Except for partnerships in professional service firms, we change jobs by moving across companies, and that happens when people come and get you—not when you prove to your boss how wonderful you are.
Dangers of ‘Lazy Girl Jobs’
In short, the “Lazy Girl” idea is largely pointing out the obvious fact that white-collar work, especially in big companies, has changed. It can be easier and less demanding psychologically. The advantages of high-pressure jobs have diminished somewhat, and the ability to focus on life outside of work is just much greater.
Here’s the risk if you are a younger person and you take this advice: If you find one of these jobs that doesn’t demand much, allows you to work from home and pays pretty well, can you keep it? Companies have a tendency to restructure, churn through employees and force you to find a new position elsewhere.
The worst place to be in one of those circumstances is in a Lazy Job, with low visibility buried in the bureaucracy, because there are no clear analogs elsewhere. If you’ve organized your life around working from home, can you get another position like that? The US Census reports that only about 27% of US employers have any remote workers—yes, most employers are small—but it is a reminder that what you see in big corporations in big cities is not typical elsewhere. Even for Lazy Girls (and Boys), there is no free lunch.