From ‘Bossware’ to ‘hidden homeless’: what these new words reveal about work in Australia

Published: 06/01/2023
Category: Working life
Published: 06/01/2023
Category: Working life

Bossware. E-change. Quiet quitting. What do any of these words have to do with work? 

Each year, the Macquarie Dictionary crowns a ‘Word of the Year’. For 2022, the committee chose ‘teal’. The people’s choice award went to ‘bachelor’s handbag’ (the BBQ chook you can pick up in a bag from your supermarket).  

But hidden among the short list of words that missed the final cut are some eye-opening terms. We’ve pulled out four words that reveal a lot about the ever-changing nature of work in Australia.

Quiet quitting

  1. noun. the practice of strictly limiting oneself to performing the tasks within one’s job description, and working only the hours for which one is contracted.

And guess what? Just because it was a new word in 2022, doesn’t mean quiet quitting is a novel idea. 

In fact, quiet quitting is the latest version of what union members have been doing for over a century: putting people before profit. 

Hidden Homeless & E-change

In their own way, both these terms speak to the rental crisis in Australia. Around a decade of pitiful wage growth has forced workers into precarious living conditions and sometimes out of home completely.  

Hidden homeless – “people with no home who stay temporarily with friends, family members” – are a result of the rental and wages crises.  

E-change also reflects a housing shift: “a move from a city environment to a rural location, made possible by the facility of being able to, and being permitted to, conduct one’s work remotely from home.” 

While some employees took remote working conditions as an opportunity for a tree change, others had far less choice in moving farther away from urban centres. 

Many city hubs and surrounding suburbs are simply unaffordable for the average worker, pushing those who are on the lowest wages out to the fringes.

But new laws signal a turning point for getting wages moving again. Stronger bargaining makes it easier for workers to land a pay increase at work. 

Not sure where to start? Read our Getting a Pay Rise guide and chat to your union.


  1. noun. software installed on an employee’s computer which allows their employer to remotely monitor and measure activity and productivity, as by logging keystrokes and mouse movement, taking screenshots, etc.

Bossware is one very creepy word. While surveillance tools such as CCTV are still common in workplaces, there has been a rise in employers using Bossware since the start of the pandemic

But research has found that workers aren’t proving to be more productive when monitored. And unsurprisingly, workers have pushed back against invasive surveillance.

In some workplaces, union members have successfully negotiated clauses included in agreements which restrict the use of surveillance. Having that protective measure in place has saved jobs.  

Make note: workplace surveillance in the eyes of the law is a grey zone. Legally, there is inconsistency across the state and territories which makes it hard for workers to know when a line has been crossed.  

If you’re unsure about any surveillance practices occurring in your workplace, contact your union. Your union will conduct any conversation about your concerns in full confidentiality.

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Cover photo credit: Jazmin Quaynor on Unsplash

From ‘Bossware’ to ‘hidden homeless’: what these new words reveal about work in Australia

From ‘Bossware’ to ‘hidden homeless’: what these new words reveal about work in Australia