Young People Are Right to Hate the Office

“Why is it that I have to work 40 hours a week just so I can have a place to live?” 

A young woman’s TikTok video, in which she makes a now familiar complaint about young people having to spend most of their time working for just a sliver of free time which they then have barely enough money to enjoy, is now going viral. 

“40 hours a week makes me $2,000 a month and my rent is $1,660,” the woman continued in a video that has amassed 18 million views on Twitter. “So I work 40 hours a week so I can have a 2 bedroom apartment and an extra $300 a month that doesn’t cover my phone or my internet or food.”

As the video made its way to Twitter, the accounts of the usual conservative suspects—those who seem to make a point of missing the point in order to generate outrage clicks—rushed in to blast the woman for her “laziness.”

Political commentator Matt Walsh weighed in to bid the woman “suck it up and deal with it.” 

“Honestly boggles my mind that so many people think 40 hours of work a week is a lot,” Walsh wrote. “That leaves you at least 5 or 6 waking hours a day during the week to yourself and two full days on the weekend. How much more free time do you really think you should have?”

But it’s not the 40-hour work week per se that is making young people in the workforce so miserable. From a historical point of view, Walsh and others like him are right: The 40-hour work is relatively easy on the employee. Congress didn’t pass the Fair Labor Standards Act until 1938, requiring employers pay extra to an employee who works more than 44 hours in a given week. In 1940, that number was lowered to 40 hours a week. For jobs that aren’t salaried, anything over that today gets you extra money per hour.

In the pre-industrial rural lifestyles often romanticized by the unhappy office drone, work was such a fact of life that “time off” simply wasn’t a thing—“time off” was time for your horse that provides your only transportation to go lame, your crops to die, and your cattle to go hungry. The Pioneers didn’t clock out of their farming at 5:30 p.m. sharp. In the 1800s, estimates conclude that Americans worked 70 or more hours a week. 

Even so, the establishment conservatives of a certain age get it wrong when they are quick to pass judgment on people like this young woman by citing these facts. They misunderstand the nature of the complaint. Young people working in corporate America today are not wrong to be unhappy because it is a much different environment than the corporate America boomers, or even Gen X, got its start in. The pointlessness of so many laptop jobs, the cost of living that eats up a paycheck even before young people can start saving, and the constant woke browbeating from human resources offices is no insignificant burden for them to bear. When you add to this the apparent likelihood that they must bear it for decades on end until they reach an increasingly unlikely retirement, it’s no wonder that the kids aren’t all right. 

A former Google employee who quit in 2016 recounted this month how frustrating the politically correct badgering was at the company. At one point, he was called into an H.R. office, “as a result of someone filing a complaint about something I did not say, did not write, and do not believe.” 

“And then, in what really defied the limits of audacity, I was asked in that meeting to apologize for that which I did not say!  Of course, I did no such thing … but that was the moment I changed my mind, from ‘Google has a big problem’, to ‘even if I have to peel potatoes for a living, I really can’t work here anymore.’”

Another video has been going viral on Instagram of a father returning from working more hours than the woman in this video. Yet he is happy to tears as his young daughter greets him joyfully as soon as his car pulls into the garage. 

“I work 55 hours a week and I come home and she never fails me, my little angel is there waiting for me before I even have the chance to pull into the garage. I wanna show you guys this,” the father says as he pulls into his home. 

“You guys see that?” he says, choking up as a girl’s grinning face peeps out of the house into the garage. “It’s the reason why I won’t give up, why I can’t give up. Because I have people who love me, who care about me.” Perhaps this is why generations of men and women performed quite literally back-breaking labor with nothing but thankfulness. Conservatives would do well not to chide those who are depressed under the pointlessness of seemingly endless labor when the end is nothing but one’s own self-actualization, and we live in a culture that seems to offer even slim hope of that. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.