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‘Funemployment’: The New Gen-Z Trend Turning Joblessness into Joy

unemployment sucks, funemployment doesn't.

A friend of mind recently got laid off. Since then, he confirmed something we all know: There’s nothing fun about being unemployed. One day, everything seems fine at the office, and the next, you’re unexpectedly called in, sat down like a schoolboy, and told precisely why you weren’t enough. And just like that, however many months or years spent at that company are reduced to a long list of shortcomings.

At this point, his self-esteem is at rock bottom. Friends and family have offered to support him in every way they could, but their well-meaning advice often feels unhelpful or even patronizing, which only pushes him away further. From what he’s told me, he’s now started questioning his own worth, constantly wondering whether he’ll ever find stability again. That overarching stress he’s feeling must only be growing, feeding off every doubt he has. This is just an assumption of course, but from the calls I’ve been getting, I don’t think that I’m too far off.

As days turned into weeks, the initial shock gave way to a gnawing sense of anxiety, making it harder for him to stay motivated or even maintain a positive outlook. Then one day, instead of launching into an hour-long monologue about how little he thinks of himself or how unfair the world is being towards him, he surprised me by introducing a new concept he now lives and breathes by: “Funemployment.”

The compound word, which is an amalgamation of “fun” and “unemployment,” is the new way he’s approaching his situation. In layman’s terms, the word refers to “the condition of a person who takes advantage of being out of a job to have the time of their life,” per an Urban Dictionary definition from 2006. Though the concept has been around for quite some time now, the notion of viewing unemployment as something relieving rather than stressful has been making a comeback recently thanks to platforms like TikTok.

@christian.suen Lowkey love hearing about his day tho, coz i basically live vicariously through him these days #workinglife #corporate #workaintworking #funemployed ♬ original sound – TONY STATOVCI

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again— Gen Z’s emphasis on a healthy work-life balance is a defining factor of their generation. Eager to manage professional success alongside personal well-being, today’s 20-somethings would rather prioritize their personal time than excel in a traditional, and very draining, nine to five job— a mindset that “funemployment” neatly falls under. Whether you’re casually applying for jobs while enjoying life or taking time off after securing one, despite the significant differences between both scenarios, the core idea remains the same: taking it easy.

The key to making the most out of your funemployment period is to have some money set aside, reduce financial obligations to essentials like rent and food, and adjust your lifestyle to give yourself as much time as possible before having to commit to anything.

Given the lengthy and uncertain nature of job hunting, it’s no surprise that many would rather take the opportunity to indulge in activities they would typically not have time to do. Think back to the vibes of the first COVID-19 lockdown when everyone, with a momentary break from work, began striving to become the best bakers in their neighborhoods, took up activities like running, or finally had the chance to delve back into childhood hobbies. Only this time, you can leave your house, are not required to wear a mask, and most importantly, not feeling that the world is on the brink of ending.

However, funemployment, like many other things in life, has its costs. It’s a luxury that largely depends on whether you can afford it or not as exploring interests and opportunities without immediate concern for income remains a privilege. Often out of reach for those without a safety net or wealthy enough parents to subsidize all of the fun they’re having, this lifestyle is practically impossible for a lot out there.

Meanwhile, what might seem like a carefree blip in your twenties can become daunting if you happen to be in this situation in your forties. In fact, can it be now or then, concerns about resume gaps, bills, inflation, and losing a sense of purpose are very tangible realities. What starts as fun can turn into a nightmare of its own. And breaking away from that cycle is as difficult as it gets.

There’s no definitive answer as to whether it is the ultimate solution for people our age, but for now, my friend seems happier working sporadically to get by. When I asked him about my worries, he simply said that he hopes that it’s temporary and that with all this free time, he feels confident that tomorrow will be better. As he learns new skills and prepares for his next move, I can’t help but think that if he lands a job by September, he would have at least had the hot boy summer I might have missed out on. And for that, I envy him a little.

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