5 Pop Culture Moments That Epitomize Work Life Right Now
The modern work landscape is continuously shifting, and so has our understanding of how to be people in the workplace. If you’re wading through changing, complicated notions of ambition, purpose, and priorities, you’re far from alone. As always, culture reflects our lived experiences, and looking to art and entertainment can tell us a little bit about what work-life feels like in this moment. In the spirit of crystal-ball gazing, we’ve rounded up some recent pop-culture releases that are on the pulse of what it’s like to be at work right now—and where it might be headed next.
"Break My Soul," Beyoncé
Is Beyoncé fueling the Great Resignation with her latest single? When she released the first hit off her Renaissance album this summer, rumors of people quitting their jobs, inspired by Queen B, swirled online. Digging a little deeper, perhaps the song speaks to our collective frustrations about job conditions that no longer serve our mental health. If you’ve ever related to the lyric, “And they work my nerves/That's why I cannot sleep at night,” you know the power of moving on from an unhealthy work environment.
Takeaway: With so many workers at a breaking point, employers face an urgent call to put care into practice…or risk seeing their MVPs release their jobs. (As soon as they’ve secured their Beyoncé tour tickets, of course).
Normal Gossip (Defector)
The conversation around switching to mostly-hybrid work has been missing one crucial piece—office gossip. Pulling aside your work BFF to share some (harmless) workplace drama just isn’t as fun over Slack. Enter the Normal Gossip podcast: Each episode, host Kelsey McKinney delivers to her guest a piece of juicy but totally innocuous gossip from and about perfectly ordinary strangers. It’s the ideal way to get the fix you’ve been missing.
Takeaway: Social connections with colleagues are essential, especially in our increasingly digital workspaces. And intentional non-work talk can go a long way to combat screen drain or Slack fatigue. Try bonding over some celebrity goss for a little spark, or casually share some light-and-fun personal news to loosen things up.
The Bear (FX/Hulu)
Hulu’s recent comedy-drama series The Bear follows Carmy, a fine dining chef, trying to make good in his family’s Italian beef sandwich shop. Showcasing in intimate detail the chaos, anxiety, sweat, and high intensity in the behind-the-scenes world of hospitality, The Bear also spotlights a group of coworkers who care for and support each other. Conflicts arise, personal issues sometimes overshadow the work—but the crew believe in the job at hand and in each other.
Takeaway: Ultimately, goodness (and really great beef sandwiches) prevails when coworkers show up for each other. How can employers create an environment where team members are given space to build strong relationships, and can rely on managers for support and encouragement?
A Visible Man, Edward Enninful (Penguin Press)
Edward Enninful is no stranger to breaking down barriers. As the first Black editor-in-chief of British Vogue, Enninful has spotlighted inclusion and held up a mirror to the fashion industry’s failures. He’s also created some of fashion’s most iconic and memorable moments, like putting civil rights activists on the cover of Vogue, and championing designers and photographers of color. Enninful’s new memoir is an inspirational story of a visionary and singular career.
Takeaway: As discussions around how to build more equitable workplaces continue to evolve, employers who aren’t making it a priority to uplift a spectrum of under-acknowledged voices and talents are missing the moment. Take note, recognition and belonging are pivotal themes in the future of work—starting now.
Not Okay (Hulu)
Aspiring creatives are often told to build personal brands to boost potential career prospects—but in doing so, are we becoming people that we don’t recognize? In the recently released black comedy, Not Okay, Danni Sanders (Zoey Deutch), a struggling writer and influencer, gains a career boost and viral social media following by posing as a survivor of a tragedy. This movie is a dark, satirical take on our collective obsession with centering ourselves in the narrative.
Takeaway: Not Okay pokes fun at the creative industry’s fixation with chasing influence, and its (at times) total disregard for authenticity—but bringing your full human self to work isn't always easy. As we’ve collectively shifted toward striving a little less (see “Break My Soul”), we’re all craving a work experience that’s less performative, more genuine; less transactional, and more about actual connection.