Gen Z graduate in tears over lack of time and energy due to 9-to-5 job

Screengrabs of Brielle in her viral TikTok video
Her tirade perfectly encapsulates how every working adult wants to respond when someone asks, "How are you?" Photo credit: @brielleybelly123 / TikTok

It's not exactly a hot take that juggling a full-time job, errands, a social life, family, self-care (and eating, drinking and sleeping) takes an ungodly amount of effort, but a viral video by a Gen-Z graduate grappling with 9-to-5 life may have hit the nail on the head of what it means to 'adult'.

In the clip, which has since amassed over 2.7 million views and almost 230,000 likes, New Jersey-based content creator Brielle launched into a tirade that perfectly encapsulates how every working adult wants to respond when someone asks, "How are you?"

Captioning the clip, "QOTD [question of the day], in a 9-5 how do you have time for your life", Brielle - who recently began her first marketing job out of university - explained how her existence has become consumed by the 40-hour work week and her daily commute to and from New York City.

"This is my first 9-to-5 job out of college and I'm commuting to the city, and it takes me f**king forever to get there," she said in an emotional stream-of-consciousness to the camera.   

"There's no way I can afford to live in the city right now, so that's off the table. I get on the train at 7:30am and I don't get home until 6:15pm earliest and then I don't have time to do anything... I don't have the time or energy to cook my dinner, I don't have energy to work out. I'm so upset.  

"It's nothing to do with my job, it's just the 9-to-5 schedule in general - it's crazy. If [my role] was remote, I'd get off at 5pm - but like, I'm not home - if you [commute] to work, you don't finish at 5pm. I know it could be worse, I know I could be working longer [hours], but I get off and it's pitch-black and I don't have energy.   

"How do you have friends? How do you have time to meet a guy? How do you have time for dating? I don't have time for anything, and I'm so stressed out." 

Her video was quickly flooded with thousands of messages standing in solidarity with the 9-to-5 struggle, with one of the top comments reading: "The 40-hour work week is beyond outdated, and your feelings are totally valid."  

"The 40-hour work week was designed with a homemaker to take care of house tasks. We need dual incomes now, so that's not possible. No time for anything," another agreed, while a third added: "It's so repetitive and depressing, I feel you girl."  

"I had a crisis when I got my first 9-5 job. Literally, I couldn't believe this was life," said another, with a further writing: "I feel the same way, I just started a 9-5... like I guess work is my life now?"  

However, not everyone was quite as supportive, with thousands of others taking to the comments to mock Brielle and her experience. Many also couldn't resist turning it into a competition of "whose life is harder", with hundreds taking particular issue with her idea of what constitutes "long hours", or pointing out that she doesn't have children to take care of on top of her work. 

One of the more popular responses was, "Welcome to adulthood", while another hit back: "Okay, Gen-X here and this cracks me up. I did a full-time job and two part-time jobs while going to college full-time. I'm on call now 24/7. 9-5 is amazing."

After Brielle's video began appearing in local media - with Fox News using the headline, 'Gen Z grads complain about normal work hours' - she made a follow-up clip in which she hit back at suggestions she was 'ungrateful' for her unemployment post-education, or was comparing her experience to those who also have children or need to work multiple jobs to get by. 

"I'm one of the lucky post-grads that got a job in my field after college. I know so many post-grads who have been searching for upwards of a year and they still can't find a job in their field, and they have hundreds of thousands of dollars of student debt," she said.   

"It took me five months to get my job... I probably have thousands of applications out there and I heard back from one employer. I had to move for that job - I had to move to New Jersey because I can't afford to live in New York. I knew I had to move, or I wasn't going to get my foot in the door if I waited any longer. My commute is two hours there and two hours back.   

"I don't even have half the struggles that most people do - most people have kids or animals... I can't even imagine the working parents out there, I give so much grace to them.  

"My job in general, I am extremely thankful my employer decided to reach out to me because a lot of them don't - because they don't want to train a college graduate."  

She noted that most universities don't follow a schedule that prepares students for a 9-to-5 structure in their working lives, while adding that for many Gen-Z graduates, much of their tertiary education was conducted remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When we get thrown into a 9-5, we don't know how to handle it because college hasn't set us up for that type of schedule... and during COVID, we all had to go remote, so obviously I'm not used to working a 9-5 schedule because I'm not used to being anywhere from 9-5." 

The concept of a more flexible work schedule has gained traction in recent years, with the international shift to remote work amid the pandemic shining a light on the importance of work-life balance. Many companies have since moved towards a hybrid model which allows employees to work from home a few days per week, while others have adopted a four-day week to give employees more time to manage their personal lives.

Last year, the world's biggest trial of a four-day work week was conducted in the UK, where more than 3300 workers and 70 companies left Monday-to-Friday behind for six months. Employees received the same pay for 20 percent fewer hours a week to determine if productivity levels remained the same or increased.   

The pilot was organised by researchers in partnership with 4 Day Week Global, an initiative co-founded by New Zealander Andrew Barnes, who first trialled an extra day off at his company Perpetual Guardian in 2018. He has been following the structure ever since, citing increased productivity and happier employees.  

"For too long the balance really has been in the companies' favour and this pandemic has shown us we really do need to rebalance things," founder and director of MANA Communications, Caleb Hulme-Moir, told Newshub Live at 8pm last June. His business operates with every second Monday off, a schedule he said not only retains productivity but has increased staff satisfaction dramatically.  

Meanwhile, more than 80 percent of Kiwis have reported in a study that the ability to work remotely "from anywhere" has made them happier and more fulfilled.

With that being said, Brielle - many of us feel you on a deep and spiritual level.