Modern Work (or Antiwork) Terms That Didn’t Exist in Your Day


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The modern workplace has continued to evolve ever since the Industrial Revolution, particularly since the Internet came along. We can do things now in the workplace that were unthinkable a few decades ago, and workers have had to adapt or be left behind.


One way to tell who’s adapted and who hasn’t is to listen to a coworker’s jargon. If it’s full of terms like “Xerox” and “fax,” chances are good that they haven’t changed with the times. On the other hand, if they use the terms listed below, then you can reasonably assume that they’re a product of the modern workplace. Here are some modern work terms that didn’t even exist 20 years ago but are now commonplace.

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1. Working Remotely

Working remotely began gaining legitimacy once everyone had a Wi-Fi connection in their homes, but when COVID-19 came along and required social distancing, working remotely became the only way to work at all for many. With the pandemic over, many companies are trying to get their employees to come back to the office after two years of working in bed while wearing pajamas. Good luck getting people to give that up.

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2. Zoom Meeting

If you bought a new computer in 2019, it’s possible that you never considered its videoconferencing capabilities. Shortly thereafter, when a certain virus reached pandemic proportions, everyone found themselves installing videoconferencing software like Zoom in order to have weekly sales meetings, pitch meetings, faculty meetings, or any kind of meeting. All of them became Zoom meetings overnight by default.

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3. Side Hustle

In the past, this used to be called “a second job,” and it was a sign that your regular job wasn’t paying you enough. Unfortunately, the need for a second job has become pretty universal over the last few years, and many people with full-time employment still find themselves walking dogs or teaching yoga on the weekend to make rent. Rather than address the epidemic of low-wage jobs that necessitate getting a second one, we as a society have chosen to normalize this state of affairs by categorizing the second job as a “side hustle.”

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4. Gig Economy

The United States has been said to have a “gig economy” for several years now, which basically means an economy in which many people make their living doing freelance work with a short-term contract. Or no contract. While anyone waiting tables can be said to be working in the gig economy, the short-term, no-guarantees, this-can-go-away-at-any-time nature of such jobs has crept into full-time office work and other contexts that used to come with a salary and benefits not so long ago.

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5. Hot Desking

One thing most of us take for granted is that if we’re hired to perform certain job functions, like accounting work, there will be a desk to go along with it. Today, many people who would have had their own desk, however modest, must now go about the task of “hot desking,” which means that your desk is whatever flat surface you can find that no one is using for the next 30 minutes. Sometimes, said flat surfaces will be in desk form, but it will never be your desk and someone else will be fighting to use it tomorrow.

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6. Deep Work

In the past, if you were at work and focused on your job, this was known as being “focused on your job.” The term “concentrating” also would have sufficed. Well, those days are over, and today, if you’re quietly involved in one of the tasks your employer pays you to perform, you’re engaged in the phenomenon of “deep work.” Since it basically means “paying attention,” we would like to express our most sincere wish that the people who perform open-heart surgery and operate heavy machinery have embraced the concept of “deep work” too.

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7. Ghosting

“Ghosting” – the practice of suddenly not communicating with someone anymore – isn’t just for unhappy couples. Today, the human resource operations of many businesses have also embraced ghosting when it comes to rejecting job applicants. In the olden days, when a workplace didn’t want to hire you, they would at least give you a phone call or letter to relay the unfortunate news. In 2024, you just never hear from them again, no matter how well the interview went or how persuasively the HR director insists that treating people with basic courtesy is one of the company’s core values.

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8. Pivot

Do you remember a long-ago era in which someone who had worked at one job for over a decade would get a different job? Do you remember that in that era, the person would be said to have “gotten a new job,” with no fanfare? Well in 2024, you don’t get a new job, you “pivot.” Often, this is the right term to use since many people who have pivoted have changed industries or dropped industries altogether to teach aerial ballet. However, frequently, when someone has been said to have “pivoted,” it was because they left their job as a McDonald’s fry cook to become a Burger King fry cook.

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9. Disrupt

Most of us were brought up to believe that disrupting is bad. If you were at a wedding, a funeral, or a school play, the last thing you wanted to be guilty of was disrupting it. Today, it’s shaken off the negative connotation, at least in the business world, and if you have some new product or idea that radically changes the way a particular industry operates, congratulations – you have “disrupted” it. Of course, Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos was described as a “disruptor,” and she ended up in prison, so make sure you chase the title of “disruptor” without making any false claims.

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10. Bandwidth

In the distant past, if your boss asked you to perform a task for which you did not have the time or resources, you would just say you couldn’t do it. Today, you would say you don’t have the “bandwidth.” This term used to apply only to Internet speeds, but in the 21st century it jumped species and became a term that now applied to human beings. So when your boss asks you to reformat the drives on all 500 computers in the office in the next hour, tell him or her that you simply don’t have the bandwidth.

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11. Touch Base

This modern work term is only slightly less annoying than “reach out.” To “touch base” with a coworker simply means to pick up the phone and call them, or email them, or text them, or yell “What’s up?” at them across the office. For mysterious reasons, it caught on immediately, and scarce is the workplace where everyone doesn’t say “touch base” constantly. Of course, it’s less icky than when your boss tells you the company is hiring and asks you to put out “feelers.”

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12. Thought Leader

All of us have known people throughout our lives who just start talking, unsolicited, and love to regale us with whatever morsel of idiocy just crossed their minds. In the past, such people were known as droning bores, and the best thing that could possibly happen was if they got moved to a desk as far away from yours as possible. Sadly, those days are over, and people who are predisposed to just go off about whatever hot take they have are no longer avoided or discouraged. Rather, we call them “thought leaders” and run their latest op-ed in the pages of Forbes.

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