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, with newest terms added at the top.
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.
Quiet promotions: When a manager assigns a bunch of new responsibilities to an individual, but without a pay increase or title change.
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 constraint: When someone withholds invaluable information that would benefit a colleague’s output.
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.
Career cushioning: Starting the process of looking for the next job and preparing to move on (just in case) before leaving a current role.
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.
Holacracy: A form of organizational structure that decentralizes authority and empowers individual contributors to make decisions based on their roles.
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.
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.
100:80:100 model: Now used to describe the four-day week working model, being trialled by companies globally. Literally means employees get 100% of the pay (meaning five-day-week pay) for 80% of their time in exchange for a commitment to maintain at least 100% productivity.
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.
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.)
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.
Employee engagement manager / director: People tasked specifically with ensuring people’s return-to-office experience is positive, as well as those working remotely.
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.
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.
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 newfound 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.
3:2 or 2:3 model: Often bandied around in the business world to refer to how many days an employee will be in the office and how many they will from home, as part of a hybrid setup.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Quittagion: When quitting becomes contagious at companies.
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.
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.
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.
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 bombing: When someone outside the company hijacks a Zoom video call.