Pre-pandemic, being busy was a sign of social standing - the busier you were the more ‘successful’ or ‘important’ you were. People were literally addicted to being busy and living for the hustle. If you weren’t monetizing your hobbies what were you doing with your life? Back in 2019, one of the big conversations around being young was the high instance of burnout among millennials and Gen Z.
“When we’re busy running around, answering emails, putting out fires, and racing to back-to-back meetings, time becomes much more scarce. To deal with that scarcity, our brains effectively put on blinders.” Fast Company
With this scarcity mindset, there was a focus on consistently finding ways to show the world how busy and important you were. This resulted in being busy becoming a class signifier and status symbol - all those Instagram posts of getting unsustainable flights around the world or moaning about how you literally don’t have time to clean so you’re outsourcing. Being busy and working class is very different from having a full schedule while middle class. The importance of having a full social calendar verus the harsh reality of working multiple jobs to make ends meet.
AND THEN IT ALL SLOWED DOWN
“The hustler is someone who never stops working, or trying to economize their time” Lester Spence, New Republic.
The banana bread! The knitting! The first chapters of the novel you wanted to write for so long but have been putting off for years and years! Everybody seemed to be doing something. The only way it seemed to get through the first lockdown was to find new things to occupy yourself with. Even though we got busy to distract ourselves, in the US more than 7 out of 10 Gen Zers reported that they experienced symptoms of depression. For the young people of Ireland, 70% feel that Covid-19 has worsened their mental health…
As none of us knew what to expect or how long we would be confined to our houses, those in the western world preoccupied themselves with finding new hobbies. These hobbies suited a growing hustling culture mentality, which in turn led to a fresh economy of young creators; monetizing their new interests. It’s easy to build out your own platform, with the rise of Shopify, Depop and other D2C platforms during the pandemic. While it’s straightforward to get on these platforms, there is a pressure to create to support these new endeavours - to make coin out of your down time.
“An influencer’s leisure time, like the hours that unemployed people spend not working, is tyrannically monetized, expected constantly to turn a profit.” Bloomberg
With trips cancelled, nightlife on hold, unemployment on the rise, priorities started to shift. CEO of luxury fashion brand House of CB, Conna Walker, 28, asks “Are you just doing shit for the sake of doing shit? Does this help in anyway? Or are you doing stuff to just appear busy?”. With nearly 90% of Gen Z worldwide saying that the pandemic negatively impacted their mental health, it isn’t any wonder the concept of being busy is being called into question and there is a huge need to rest.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING IDLE
“This lockdown can we normalise doing nothing? Like - I don’t want to write a novel or learn a language or bake banana bread. Right now I’m struggling to motivate myself to put my camera on zoom.” Nathalie Gordon
With multiple returns to lockdown, a growing narrative of the value of rest and actually doing nothing became clear. Many young people started to realise the that doing nothing, sometimes, can actually be a good thing.
‘You keep yourself going with adrenaline, but by lockdown three, we were emotionally bankrupt.’ Selina Barker
All the signs have been there - young people are tired. Tired of the endless scroll, tired of occupying ourselves with hobbies, tired of worrying. This has opened up the door for reflection and seeking change. We’ve spent quite some time looking inwardly and are ready to embrace the new normal, whatever that may be. Through our Youth Culture Uncovered 2021 research ‘Emerging in an Emergency’, we found that here in Ireland, 66% of young people claim to have a new perspective on life and how society is organised after going through COVID-19. There is a sense of optimism too; in the US 72% of Gen Z and Millennials believe they can bounce back post-COVID. People are looking for hope, new opportunities and ways to connect - beyond the grind.
When we look at life post-pandemic, there is a desire to slow down. According to Kate Soper (Vice), “...leisure and slowing down is not always about fun or biking in the park. It’s about having time for mental health and grieving too.” Young people are taking time to facilitate change and not get sucked back into the endless loop of being busy.
"The point of doing nothing, as I define it, isn't to return to work refreshed and ready to be more productive, but rather to question what we currently perceive as productive." Jenny Odell, How to do nothing.
For everyone moving out of the pandemic and into the normal, the time to do nothing - to rest and to question values and time-well spent, is all part of the journey.
A lot of young people are tired. Now is the time to embrace the youth-driven mindset and values shift - sometimes, doing nothing is better than doing something. Living life more slowly is not just about tackling problems like burnout and anxiety, but generally trying to rediscover what time well spent means to you. There are countless benefits to this for individuals, communities, workplaces and society. From a brand perspective, it is an opportunity to reassess your own time and energy. It is an invitation to bring new energy into your communication with young people, both internally on your teams and externally communicating with citizens. Valuing rest and relaxation has endless positives.
How can you shift the focus from mindless productivity?
- Don’t forget the value of pausing. Often deadlines and unnecessary pressure gets in the way of recharging and reflecting on the kind of change you’d like to see in your organisation, or the changes you could bring about through your brand. What would you really like to see manifest?
- This is the time to nurture new habits, as workplaces ‘reset.’ There is an opportunity now to build work cultures that value rest, and create environments that support time off. For example, Bumble recently made headlines for giving all workers the same 2 weeks paid vacation a year, in addition to unlimited paid vacation days with uniform minimums (read more here).
- From a creative perspective, consider how you could tap into more mindful moments or bring slower energy into your content, pairing things back to reflect this more simplistic approach to life.