We’re living in a minimum effort world and it’s good out here

The popularity of girl dinners, lazy girl jobs and bed rotting suggest an anti-work shift, we investigate why

Hero image in post
photo: Instagram: @badgirlriri
Hero image in post
photo: Instagram: @badgirlriri

The popularity of girl dinners, lazy girl jobs and bed rotting suggest an anti-work shift, we investigate why

By Darshita Goyal21 Jul 2023
8 mins read time
8 mins read time

It’s a sunny Saturday, or better yet, a Wednesday afternoon and you’re lying in bed watching reruns of Selling Sunset. The bedside table holds an assortment of snacks – a Snickers bar, salt & vinegar crackers and a jar of olives. Your work laptop is perched on the far corner of the bed, just close enough to spot a Slack notif and check in occasionally while you slack off safely from home. You’re contemplating squeezing in a nap before officially logging off for the day, maybe even heading to the park and tanning for a bit?

It really is a lovely day, and if you live on TikTok, you’d know that you’re not the only one having a day exactly like this one. You’ve successfully ticked off three trends of the moment: bed rotting, lazy girl jobs and girl dinners, all online movements that reflect an IRL shift towards finding happiness by barely getting by.

Girl dinners, lazy girl jobs and bed rotting: what does it all mean?

Let’s catch you up on the terms. First up, bed rotting refers to the blissful act of doing nothing and staying comfortable in bed, so of course the phrase is popular and has 9.5 million views on TikTok. On the other hand, lazy girl jobs may sound like an oxymoron, because how does one stay lazy and still work a job? Well, TikToker Gabrielle Judge introduced the term (which now has 17.1 million views on the platform) as part of her antiwork content, encouraging people to think about how to grab a holistic work-life balance for themselves.

Judge urges people to work in low-lift jobs that are typically remote, undemanding and stress-free, letting you sneak in endless little breaks. “After the pandemic and economic recessions, Gen Z reached a point of analysis paralysis," the 26-year-old content creator tells woo. "We decided to opt out of hustle culture and romanticise our life.”

Unlike fleeting TikTok trends that change by the minute, Judge insists lazy girl jobs are here to stay. “Previously, a 9-5 work day allowed employees to gain generational wealth, there was social security, pensions and company loyalty. That’s rare today, so instead of climbing a corporate ladder, we are job hopping and spending more time outside work.”

This resistance to the norm also shapes the era of girl dinners, a trend where women eat attractive bits and bobs off snack plates instead of cooking elaborate meals. The food is low thought, low effort and optionally low cal. While the trend has been criticised for its potential links to diet culture - you know, because picky bits do not maketh a meal - this habit has resonated with countless people. The hashtag #GirlDinner has over 30 million views on TikTok, featuring thousands of videos of users showing off their colourful snack plates.

London-based food writer Alana Laverty popularised the practice when she rejected slow cooked meals in favour of quick bites. “I’ve been cooking my partner dinners for the last five years and it’s exhausting. So now we’ve switched up, we both have little girl dinners. After an eight-hour work day, I just want to have a simple snack plate and thankfully he enjoys them as much. It’s highly satisfying to put cheese, crackers, some olives and bread on a plate and call it dinner,” she says. Clearly, the less time and energy you put into things, the more satisfying it feels.

Gen Z and the anti-work movement

Unlike past generations, Gen Z appear to be less attached to their jobs. Work is no longer the be all and end all of their lives. Instead of staying late at the office to (hopefully) get a promotion a few years later, they would rather invest in a post-work hobby or develop a weekly board games night with the family. As per a 2023 survey conducted by Deloitte, only 49% of Gen Z believe that work is central to their identity in comparison to 62% of millennials. What's more, half of Gen Z stated they would leave a job if it didn’t provide them with hybrid working conditions.

Things are tough for Gen Z: mass layoffs, a cost of living crisis and escalating property prices. But instead of anxiously seething (which they would totally have the right to do), young people are taking control by changing the narrative. In an economic landscape where chasing after traditional career or life milestones feels fruitless, they've set their sights on little treats for dinner and maintaining boundaries at work.

If this sounds like the bare minimum, it’s because it is. But Gen Z is intent on proving there's no shame in that. As Éloïse Gendry-Hearn, a digital and talent specialist at The Digital Fairy explains; “Gen Z are looking for loopholes, dupes and cheat-codes to increase their enjoyment and decrease the effort required. One of our favourite terms is ‘quality of life’, championing the idea that there is no point putting all your effort into work if it leaves you with no time or energy for fun. Lazy-girl jobs, girl dinner and bed rotting all tie into this notion.”

The timing is also key; during lockdown, we were forced to reckon with reality. Days were spent baking banana bread and lazing in bed while nights were spent pondering over the meaning of life and what we really want. Lucky for us, the new way of doing things requires effort proportionate to the amount of happiness. People are open to challenging the everyday, it’s carpe diem with a twist, the goal is to do less, not more. “These low-effort trends are an antidote to hustle culture and subsequent burn out," Fiona Harkin, the foresights editor at The Future Laboratory says. "This embracing of sanity, even mediocrity, is far from being lazy; people are actively opting to do nothing and it’s a conscious, dynamic choice.”

It’s also helpful to understand how we define “laziness” in this context. A quick Google search shows being “lazy” is defined as “unwilling to work or use energy”, and it’s mostly seen as a negative quality. Over decades, we have witnessed swathes of people put in more hours to distance themselves from this term. It was considered bad to be lazy and in a late capitalist world, there’s little space, or time, to wonder why.

But after witnessing the rise and fall of the girlboss, and multiple economic recessions in the first 25 years of their lives, Gen Z are disillusioned by this pace. “The term slacker has changed over time. In the ‘90s and ’00s we, as a society, were sold the myth of ‘hard-work’ and ‘overachieving’," she says. "Whilst we shake off the hangover of hustle culture, doing exactly what you’re paid for and nothing more is now considered to be slacking.” Gendry-Hearn says.

Millennials thought the key to success was long hours and competitive hustling while boomers integrated themselves as cogs in a machine, showing up to the office day after day and wearing suits to meetings. Now Gen Z are questioning the fabric of work altogether by rejecting the pessimism around laziness and instead embracing a less is more attitude to the grind. Young people no longer return from holidays anxious to make up for lost time. They are prioritising rest and personal well-being over building profits for the company and see breaks as necessary boundaries.

Is minimal effort living more female?

Another essential caveat of these trends is that they skew female. Few people call cis men lazy for skiving or having Huel for dinner. In many ways, the minimal effort world is also a rejection of archaic gender roles. For years, women have been expected to work full time jobs outside the house, and inside the house, cooking elaborate meals, making the bed, doing the laundry. “My mother was self-employed and after a day at work, she would come home, make us a hot dinner and put us to bed. By the time she got to rest it was 1am. Today, our tolerance to these expectations has shifted, making way for things like girl dinners,” Laverty says.

Instead of being exclusive to women, these trends are acknowledging the gender gap and presenting aesthetic buzzwords to work around it. Anyone can eat snacks for dinner or quiet quit but guilt has historically been a feminine quality. As Gendry-Hearn explains; “The gendered nature is intrinsic to these trends, as the acts being portrayed (not showering for days, eating snacks instead of meals, not making an effort to leave the house) are typically seen as ‘unfeminine’ or even ‘masculine’. Culturally we’ve had low standards for men in terms of grooming, dressing or personal care but it is considered out of the ordinary for a woman to allow herself to indulge in this kind of behaviour."

At first glance it may seem like these trends lack ambition but it’s far from it. Instead, a lazy girl job, or rotting in bed, push you to reevaluate what your ambitions are, and if that’s giving more to your work, then so be it. But if it’s to get off the hamster wheel, even momentarily, to munch on some hummus and flatbread, now is the time. Basically, minimal effort trends are a less cheugy (and more delectable) way of saying "work smarter, not harder" - and it feels good out here.