Meet Margaret Hyde, a “former victim of America’s capitalistic and consumeristic-obsessed hustle culture” turned “Snail Girl”.
As her public relations career took off, her mental health took a nose dive. Almost 10 years of being yelled at by clients, working 12-hour days, and being expected to drop everything to respond to a Slack message at any moment, had taken its toll.
“Pair this tension with the less-than-average media pay in America, and you’ll have yourself a girl who is at a borderline psychological mental breakdown,” Hyde told Fortune. “As a ‘yes’ employee I wanted to grow in my career, but this approach quickly turned into unpredicted burnout.”
“I realized working in an agency, for a corporation, my rights were removed. Self-sovereignty had been swept away,” Hyde added. So three months ago she packed in her corporate career to go freelance, ring fence her time, and become a “Snail Girl”.
The anti-work term—which translates to taking work at a snail’s pace—has exploded on social media, as a growing number of women reject years of being pressured to hustle under the glamorized “girlboss” guise.
“I just had a moment where I asked myself, ‘When will the girlbossing end? When can I enjoy my life that this hard work, hustle, and sacrifice have brought me?’” asks advertising manager-turned-entrepreneur Lucy Hall, recalling the light bulb moment she had this spring.
“I was working most of my day, being at the beck and call of everyone all the time, and I felt like my mental health was suffering,” she adds. “I decided that enough is enough”
‘Lazy girl jobs’ aren’t lazy
Research shows that women in their droves are leaving their corporate careers to become a “Snail Girl” or turn their hand to a “lazy girl job”—one with minimal stress and decent pay—but they’re far from lazy. Really, like Hyde and Hall, they’re just trying to escape burnout in jobs they’re ill-suited for.
In fact, Gallup recently surveyed over 18,000 workers and found that 33% of women are almost always burned out. Just a quarter of men feel the same.
What’s more, the burnout gap between men and women has widened since bosses have begun forcing workers to return to pre-pandemic norms. So, as a coping mechanism, women are looking for work-life balance from their next role, according to the research.
“We live in a society built by men for men—but women are smart,” Jools Aspinall, the founder of the consultancy firm Simply Jools, told Fortune. “’Lazy girl jobs’ are not about being lazy but about being selective and prioritizing self-care—running a successful business definitely involves hard work, but it’s work that aligns with my values and doesn’t lead to burnout”
For Aspinall, escaping the rat race and slowing down has been almost a decades-long process. “Corporate culture well and truly had its grip on me,” she says. But she’s recently begun embracing her inner “Snail Girl” and has found that her mental and physical health have improved, her creative juices are flowing and her productivity has risen.
“A Snail Girl is not always a lazy girl,” Hyde echoes. “I’ve cut my workload by half but I am still putting in 30 hours of work a week—40 hours on a busy week—and I’m on a trajectory to make the most money I’ve earned in my whole career to date with a fraction of the stress.”
In fact, nearly all of the women that Fortune spoke to claim now to be earning more money. As it turns out, working smarter—not harder—pays. Hall has even found ways to make money while she’s sleeping, such as by selling tickets to digital products and courses online through her two businesses, SocialDay and Digital Women.
But not everyone can be a ‘Snail Girl’
Kat Lapelosa, a freelance digital content manager, finally realized her dream of uprooting her life in the U.S. to Europe during the pandemic. But taking on multiple gigs to maintain a six-figure salary meant she didn’t have the time to actually explore her new home.
Now that she’s become a self-confessed “Snail Girl”, she works two to four-hour days, enjoys the local Serbian beaches, and goes on vacation to see another part of the continent at least once a month.
“Yes, my salary is about half of what I was making before, but that was a deliberate choice,” Lapelosa tells Fortune. “I live like I’m retired, which is what everyone is working so hard to do anyway, right?”
But she admits that she couldn’t afford to sustain her current lifestyle in her hometown, New York, where the cost of living is much higher—nor could she be a digital nomad and live off her lean salary if she had children.
“It’s easy to be a Snail Girl when your only responsibility is taking care of a dog—but that’s why I’m taking full advantage of it while I can,” she adds.
Ultimately, the millions of TikTokers who are popularizing these anti-work trends will face a reality check: It generally takes decades of experience to be able to bill clients the big bucks for just a few hours of work.
“I can be a lazy girl because I worked and hustled hard for 10 years, honing my skills and building an audience,” Hall advises.
“I really think Gen Z might be in for a shock if they think they can get a lazy girl job straight out of school with no experience or qualifications,” she concludes. “You earn a soft life.”