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Due to “major exhaustion,” employees are choosing to juggle part-time jobs instead of full-time positions – what’s behind the trend?

Due to “major exhaustion,” employees are choosing to juggle part-time jobs instead of full-time positions – what’s behind the trend?

Working two or three part-time jobs used to be a sign that someone was struggling to make ends meet, but today it can be a sign that someone is doing well.

Bella, a finance influencer on TikTok who goes by @finance_with_bella, noticed this sea change while scrolling through her LinkedIn feed.

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“The job market is so bad that people aren't even working full-time anymore,” she says in a TikTok video. “They actually make more money working multiple part-time jobs than if they choose one full-time job, and they're underpaid and overworked.”

Over 2,000 commenters echoed her sentiment. Most of them agreed with her.

“I have a friend with a PhD who cleans houses,” writes one commenter. “She just puts her headphones on and does housework because it's more fulfilling than the toxic academic job market.”

But this trend is about more than just spiritual fulfillment – ​​and it may not just be a fad, either.

The great exhaustion

Bella points out that many job seekers are “fed up” with the lengthy process of finding a job.

“It's the endless interviews, the endless rejections,” she says. “After a while, it gets really tiring.”

Workers are certainly staying out of work longer these days — data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that Americans were unemployed for an average of 21.4 weeks (5.35 months) in April. Bella says she's heard from many people who have been looking for work for six months or a year — even though the unemployment rate remains low at 3.9%.

But the job search is not the biggest hurdle on the way to a new job, write many commentators under Bella's video. Many are simply fed up with work as we know it.

“I'd rather have two part-time jobs that don't require much of me,” says one commenter. Another says they walk dogs, teach yoga and clean Airbnbs, which allows them to live the life they “love.”

Workplace trends writer and computer science professor Cal Newport coined a term for this phenomenon in an article he wrote for the New Yorker last December: the great exhaustion. According to Newport, the great exhaustion is the overwhelming fatigue that employees experience, which is largely due to constant online communication in the workplace.

According to a 2023 survey by HR software company isolved, 65% of employees suffered from burnout. After the exhausting pandemic years brought with them the workplace trends of mass resignations and quiet quits, major exhaustion is just another form of employee frustration.

Read more: Rich young Americans have lost faith in the stock market – and are betting on these assets instead. Get in now to get strong long-term tailwinds

The antidote to great exhaustion

Earlier this year, burnout expert Emily Ballestros wrote an article for Time about how to get out of major exhaustion. It turns out that's exactly what Bella and her followers are doing: tuning out.

Ballesteros cites research by author Dan Buettner, who spent years studying the world's “blue zones,” the places where people live the longest and healthiest lives. He found that in each of these places – from Italy to Japan to California – human needs come first. People who live in the blue zones value socializing, exercise and “goal-oriented work rather than maximizing productivity.”

“We have not built a society that puts the needs of the people first,” Ballesteros wrote. “We have built a society that puts the needs of the economy first, and that is starting to show.”

This could be why, according to a survey by gig-work platform Upwork, 64 million American workers were freelancers by 2023.

The survey does not reveal whether these people are freelancers voluntarily or out of necessity, but it does show that this type of work is becoming increasingly common.

Although freelancing comes with risks, Bella's commenters choose to embrace it rather than seek full-time employment.

“The reward isn't worth the stress,” writes one commenter under Bella's video. “I don't care.”

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