Lying flat is a translation of the Chinese phrase tang ping, a Chinese social movement and lifestyle whose followers adopt a more leisurely and nonmaterialistic life in rejection of professional demands and societal expectations. In particular, those who participate in the movement often drop out of the high-pressure and highly competitive professional environment to work only as much as they need to support their minimalist lifestyle. In addition, many also avoid traditional societal expectations, such as getting married and having children. Members of the movement are primarily Chinese young people and millennials who object to the demands (and unsatisfying rewards) of professional life, particularly long working hours. (A six-day, 72-hour workweek with a schedule of 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day is so common in some industries that it’s often referred to with the slang term 996). Lying flat is often seen as a counterculture movement and is actively suppressed by the Chinese government, which heavily censors content about it on the Chinese internet. The lying flat movement is sometimes noted for its parallels to the antiwork movement centered in the U.S., whose members aspire to stop working or work as little as possible, often as part of a rejection of the exploitation they believe is inherent in capitalist and industrial systems. As awareness of both movements grew in 2021 and early 2022, both came to be frequently discussed in relation to the Great Resignation, the widespread trend of workers quitting their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. The trend is thought to be the result of many different factors, notably workers’ dissatisfaction with current working conditions and personal reassessments of career and lifestyle due to the changes and hardships of the pandemic. However, in many cases, many of those resigning were in fact moving on to new jobs. In contrast, many members of the antiwork and lying flat movements aspire to leave the workforce altogether.
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