The Bon Vivant’s Guide To WFH
How to do nothing all day and get away with it.
I have a fairly easy job. I get that that’s a shitty thing to state publicly: Even within the creative class, there’s an under-discussed privilege in laziness. It’d be equally gauche to open with, “I have an easy time spending lots of money.” With privilege comes guilt, and guilt is tastefully quiet. When I do say it out loud, though, I sometimes hear that my coworkers must hate me — I don’t thiiink they do, and although they seem pretty busy, rarely do any of our roles reach the difficulty of, say, a rough Wendy’s during lunch hour. For a specific type of (office) work, stress is met with, “Well, we’re not saving lives,” and nobody screams at you about a Frosty machine. Btw, if you’re reading this and you are My Job, you’re not allowed to fire me.
A quick glance at the subreddit r/overemployed will show you one side effect of the WFH revolution: ditching the office has enabled white collars to juggle multiple jobs at once, sometimes up to 6 or 7. Personally, I’m more interested in people who do the opposite: use the modern work landscape to do as little as possible, seeking out the easiest jobs or taking a normal job and finding a way to barely do it. These are the true bon vivants, people whose highest priorities are chilling, hanging out, having a good time, etc. Every so often I’ll come across a shining example, like this
legend guy who automated his job a decade ago and bounced. Even the r/overemployed folks admit that their ability to work 4 or 5 jobs at the same time implies that one job must be trivially easy.
Ask around about easy jobs, however, and you’ll get wariness. Mostly, people like to think of themselves as hard working, and those who don’t aren’t keen on attention. An Insta Story looking for easy jobs returned several, “I would never tell on myself like this”-type responses, and a post on r/OE got outright hostility. There’s a mafia-esque secrecy that’s guarded, “Don’t talk about this thing of ours,” as if my column was going to shatter their cozy gigs.
Some accused me of writing anti work-from-home propaganda. For the record, slacking off isn’t a fresh development — David Graeber’s classic “Bullshit Jobs” essay was published in 2013 — and in my experience, WFH policies are just as likely to lead to more work, not less, thanks to all-hours Slacks. My easiest job ever was IRL, a nuclear research sinecure where I was given two week intervals to complete tasks that took 45 minutes.
Luckily, the people with truly easy jobs aren’t offended by the question. In the same way that rich people will openly discuss their finances as soon as they enter one of those Eyes Wide Shut parties, antiworkers open up once they know they’re afforded anonymity. “I refuse to do laundry off the clock now, only in work hours” revealed one friend, a project manager who estimates an average work week of <10 hours: “I turn on a youtube video like ‘6 hours of rain sounds’ and leave the house.” Another describes making a handful of memes for social accounts, scheduling their posting, and then checking out for the week.
What drives these people to work so little? “Work less” seems like a universal goal, but the layabouts I spoke to described an anxiety that came with it. “It turns into this weird high-wire act of ‘when are they going to find out?’” said a source. “I had a performance review two weeks ago and wondered if she was going to finally ask ‘what do you do for 40 hours?’” A research assistant in Sweden confessed to feeling so guilty about his work schedule that he started volunteering at a food bank for 5 hours each week — on the clock, of course. There’s also paranoia: “I remember waiting months before asking another colleague if she also, like, barely worked” one mentioned. (She was a big napper, apparently.)
The bon vivants are motivated mainly by, well, lack of motivation. But other priorities emerge. “Flexibility is very important to me” stressed the meme-maker: “I want to do what I want when I want.” Others blamed the jobs themselves, noting that they’re finishing their workloads and getting stellar reviews, only to be left with an empty schedule. “It’s all just bullshit late capitalism, blah blah.” There’s a question about whether these people are slackers or optimizers: personally, I tend to think of myself as an efficient worker rather than a lazy one, but the distinction is unclear.
Luckily, this privileged group tends not to overthink that line. And why should they? During the day, they’re: catching flights, making music, writing for fun, cooking at home, getting tattoos during all-hands meetings (“We paused for one sec so I could un-mute and go ‘yay’”), playing with AI image generators, and walking. Not a lot of high-stress side-gigs, as you might imagine.
“But Stephen, how do I get one of these cartoonishly easy jobs?” Sadly, it’s mostly down to luck. You get a job, you settle in, you discover that it’s easy. Other tips include:
- Focus on remote:This is the biggest one — the key to the puzzle. While some jobs are easy, a bathroom attendant at a major NYC landmark described his job as, “probably the easiest job on Earth” — they don’t all afford you the ability to stretch your lazy wings.
- Choose the right career: Typical fields of the underworked: IT, SEO and social writing, project management. Beware of freelance — you may end up working fewer hours, but you run the risk of being plagued by the feeling that you could be doing more for yourself. “Find out what’s easy for you that’s hard for other people” advised one person. “And don’t settle if the vibe is demanding.”
- Go where the slackers go: They’re hanging out all day — you should try it! A recent daytime trip to Vital climbing gym introduced me to a “management coach” who seemed as unbothered as any cult leader. Cafes, parks, the Russian banyas: they’re all full of people who should be working. If you’re an anxious monitor watcher, try turning off push notifications and going for a walk. You might find that the demands of your job are less time sensitive than you think.
- Pull a Costanza: “If you look annoyed all the time, people think you’re busy.”