It’s official: we’ve broken the mold on traditional work structures. How, when and where we work has changed – some would say irrevocably – over the past year or so. To make sense of these new developments, a bunch of newfangled terms have edged their way into daily conversations.
Here’s a breakout of some of the most well-used, and what they actually mean.
This list is regularly updated. To understand more about any of the terms, check out our WTF explainer series.
Asynchronous working: An increasingly popular method of working, in which teams can work closely on the same project but aren’t required to do so at the same time or at fixed hours.
Bare Minimum Mondays: A trend that encourages workers to do the minimum required work on Monday.
Bedmin: Doing admin work in bed. Could be because you’re sick, or simply not understanding when to stop working. Or maybe you’re just having a bad hair day.
Biophilic design: A style of design that centers around merging natural greenery and outdoor vibes – plants, lighting – with indoor, that’s become popular in modern offices (Check our Google’s new Bay View campus in Silicon Valley to see an example.)
Body doubling: Some people who work remotely, but want regular company to improve their own productivity and focus, will prop their phones up and record themselves working from home, tapping away on their laptops. It’s a behavior dubbed body doubling.
Career cushioning: Starting the process of looking for the next job and preparing to move on (just in case) before leaving a current role.
Chaos monkeys: A term that’s familiar for software teams, where it’s known as a tool to test the resilience of IT infrastructures. But it’s also being applied in a different, broader way across some businesses – to describe either major mindset changes or culture overhauls.
ChatGPT: A free-to-use natural language processing tool driven by AI technology that can be used as a work aid – creating content, assisting with brainstorming and other useful tasks, helping to streamline administrative-heavy tasks in particular. Prone to hallucinations still.
For more detail on AI work-related terms, see WorkLife’s AI glossary. And explore our editorial package looking at how AI will influence the future of work. And to dive into how Gen Z professionals in particular are using generative AI to shape their jobs and careers, visit our latest special edition.
Core weeks: One-week-a-month in-office model. That’s when the entire company unites for a full week of in-person collaboration across departments, and works the rest of the month remotely. As such, it takes some proper planning.
Digital nomads: People who have unplugged totally from their former physical workplaces and travel wherever they want, with families in tow or by themselves, with all the tech they need to still complete all their work requirements.
Doom loop: This describes the psychological state of a distressed person, when one negative thought they have, folds into the next, in a continuous loop. It can be triggered by external events or those relating to a person’s job. But it has negative knock-on effects for employee well-being and productivity.
Employee engagement manager / director: People tasked specifically with ensuring people’s return-to-office experience is positive, as well as those working remotely.
Gap career: These occur in between jobs and tend to feature extended travel experiences in far-flung places. They also involve learning things that enrich people’s careers and can mean, for some, starting a business.
Gaslighting: Causes the victim to question the validity of their own thoughts, perception of reality, or memories and typically leads to confusion, loss of confidence and self-esteem, uncertainty of one’s emotional or mental stability, and a dependency on the perpetrator. In the workplace, it is a form of emotional abuse that can occur between co-workers, both on the same level or from their bosses.
Generative AI: The type of AI that is now used to generate content for multiple purposes, including work and creates workplace efficiency.
Great Resignation: The term coined by economists to describe the mass resignations that began happening in 2021, prompted by factors ranging from safety concerns, the restrictions the pandemic put on people’s lives and the need to care for relatives, to people’s light-bulb moments that life was too short to be unhappy or overworked in their jobs.
Great Reshuffle: Describes what many who did resign, did afterward: sought better paid, more flexible jobs or switched careers entirely.
Green-hushing: When companies fall short of their sustainability commitments and a direct result of greenwashing, a practice where brands use sustainability to help improve their image and misdirect customers about their impact.
HENRY: Stands for “High Earners, Not Rich Yet,” and refers to anyone with a high income but low net worth. It is often used to refer to some millennials.
Holacracy: A form of organizational structure that decentralizes authority and empowers individual contributors to make decisions based on their roles.
Hotelling: Desk-booking apps that have been adopted en masse by the corporate world so staff can book their desk for the days they plan to be in the office.
Hush trips: When remote workers don’t inform their bosses that they are going to a new destination – even if it’s a tropical island or a known tourist spot. The theory being if they don’t plan to take time off, but to work as normal, there’s surely no need to inform their boss or colleagues.
Hybrid meetings: When a team has a meeting in which some of the attendees are in the same room in an office, and the rest are joining remotely.
Hybrid meeting moderators: People tasked with ensuring everyone who is joining a meeting remotely, gets to speak to ensure there is parity between people in the office and those who aren’t.
Hybrid working: Describes the flexibility employers are offering instead of the traditional 9-to-5 schedule. There is no singular blueprint, but it refers to working models where a certain number of days or hours can be worked in the office, with the remainder worked from home or from other remote locations.
Imposter Syndrome: When an individual doubts their abilities, see themselves as unworthy of their professional achievements and can’t help but feel like a fraud at work.
Jobfishing: A tactic that opportunistic fraudsters are increasingly using to trick people hunting for remote jobs into working for fake companies which tout flexible benefits, and fooling them into working for free or giving up payment details.
Keystroke technology: A software that tracks and collects data on employees’ computer use. It tracks all keystrokes an employee types on their computer and is one of a few tools companies have to more closely monitor exactly how staff spend the hours they are expected to work. Its use is fairly controversial.
‘Lazy girl’ jobs: A term which became a viral trend on TikTok after Gen Z female professionals began expressing their desires for low-stress ojbs that privide a good salary, benefits, flexibility and work-life balance. It began trending on TikTok in May 2023 as an antidote to burnout culture.
Learning Quotient: A measure of adaptability and one’s desire and ability to update our skills throughout life.
Labor Hoarding: The practice of retaining staff to reduce recruitment cost and keep strong talent.
Light headquarters: With so many companies revamping their physical office to reflect the way employees use the office these days—for team collaboration, onboarding, coaching and strategy sessions—some businesses are dumping their huge headquarters in favor of smaller spaces.
Midweek mountain: The tendency for hybrid employees to go into their physical office Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and work from home on Mondays and Fridays.
Neighborhoods (or zones): As employers rethink their physical office space, they’re redesigning them to reflect what their staff needs when they come into work. That includes quiet zones, collaboration zones and meeting zones.
Neurodiverse Talent: Workers with autism, ADHD, dyslexia, Tourette’s syndrome and other learning and mental health differences.
New normal: Refers to life after the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic. Includes anything from transformed working practices and work-life balance to long-lasting mental health and trauma-related issues and how they affect people’s job and career choices.
Office Peacocking: Employers, in their pitch to get employees to return to in-person work, are going to greater lengths than ever to make their offices look and feel homey.
Pleasanteeism: The sense that we always have to display our best self at work and show that we are OK regardless of whether we’re stressed, under too much pressure or in need of support.
Polywork: A rising trend, particularly among Gen Z and millennials, in which people have multiple jobs at once.
Productivity theater: Ways to cheat appearing productive, when actually not. It’s done mainly by hacking digital communications, with an employee prioritizing tasks that makes them seem more productive, more available and busier than they really are.
Protirement: A term coined in 1961 by U.S. broadcaster Arthur Godfrey – essentially means: “living the dream and achieving a balance in life by trading in professions to follow their fancy.”
Pleasenteeism: The sense that we always have to display our best self at work and show that we are OK regardless of whether we’re stressed, under too much pressure or in need of support.
Proximity bias: The latest inclusivity challenge. It refers to the (somewhat inevitable) bias of managers toward staff that are physically near them, aka in the same office, and those who remain remote due to personal choice or requirements. That bias can lead to promotions and favoritism.
Psychological safety: A term that’s been around for a while and refers to work environments that encourage people to feel confident enough to speak their mind (constructively) without reprisals. It’s had a second wind thanks to the coronavirus, which has expanded to include non-work issues and divisive topics like mask-wearing.
Quiet ambition: Describes when someone no longer works hard solely for the sake of a company’s bottom line, but for a long-held dream or personal fulfillment needs.
Quiet caregiving: When an employee is juggling caregiving responsibilities – whether it’s their kids or a relative – on top of their day job.
Quiet constraint: When someone withholds invaluable information that would benefit a colleague’s output.
Quiet cutting: Where employees are reassigned to new roles within their current organizations. They’re told the jobs they had are now cut but they can move to another job as part of an organizational restructuring.
Quiet firing: When a manager avoids the discomfort of firing someone outright. Instead, they will use a bunch of different passive-aggressive tactics that have the same goal: they make the employee want to quit themselves.
Quiet promotions: When a manager assigns a bunch of new responsibilities to an individual, but without a pay increase or title change.
Quiet quitting: A recently coined term that refers to the push back on hustle culture and longstanding working norm of going above and beyond at work. Instead, a worker will fulfil the core requirements of a job, and stick to contracted hours to maintain their work-life balance.
Quittagion: When quitting becomes contagious at companies.
Tip-toe through all of the latest “quiet” terms you need to know. Visit WorkLife’s special project: The Quiet Workplace.
Radius rules: These are a part of companies’ specific return-to-office policies. They stipulate that only staff who live within a certain distance of offices will be required back on set days, while having different requirements for those who live further.
Rage quitting: People who have walked off the job in anger, with little or no notice given.
Remote working: When a person never visits the office but works remotely — not just from home but from any location.
Reverse mentoring: With digital natives entering the workforce in increasing numbers, companies are pairing them with seasoned professionals so they can teach them the most efficient ways to use technology. The established workers mentor the new hires in areas like company culture and workplace etiquette.
RTO: The now commonly-used acronym to describe the return to the office, after the easing of coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
RTO mandate: The act of enforcing in-office attendance for a set amount of days a week that an employer has decided upon.
Shecession: Refers to the notable rise in the number of women who had to quit their jobs during the pandemic, to take care of children while schools were closed, causing a sharp u-turn on many of the gains made by women in the labor market.
Shybrid: A term that’s been used to describe how employers have continually pushed back return-to-office dates, but without informing employees of any concrete hybrid (or otherwise) plan. This “shyness” to explain a hybrid strategy, is leading to widespread confusion.
Social engineering: The manipulation of human factors to gain unauthorized access to resources and assets. It’s the active weaponization of your human vulnerabilities, behaviors and errors.
Social loafing: Refers to someone who piggybacks off the work of their coworkers to avoid having to do any work themselves, particularly in a group setting like a meeting.
Toxic positivity: A continuous effort to focus on positive things and feelings while ignoring negative ones completely. Intended to help people see the positive side of any situation – no matter how dire, but can often lead to a grating, forced positivity at work, where the employee feels pressured to maintain a consistently positive mindset and crush any other concerns.
Virtual culture: Describes how businesses have attempted to maintain company culture in enforced remote-working environments needed throughout the pandemic. And will remain a high priority as the bulk of organizations opts for a hybrid work model.
Well-being washing: Employees’ well-being and mental health became a much bigger priority during the pandemic years. Businesses started to tout that they looked after their employees with various well-being benefits – often without providing the actual goods. This lip service has been dubbed well-being washing.
WFA: Means work-from-anywhere and is an increasingly common workforce strategy where a company will allow its employees to work remotely from a location of their choice.
Workation: When someone embraces the work-from-anywhere trend — that arose as a result of people’s changed attitudes toward work-life balance — and heads to an exotic location for a vacation, from which they can still work remotely (therefore stay longer).
Zoom: The name of a video conferencing tool that began getting used as a verb (like Google is for search) during the pandemic years, when so many businesses adopted it as their prime tool for employees to communicate with.