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Anne Helen Petersen

Author of Can't Even and Out of Office

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Adobe 99U Summit | Rethinking Productivity Culture
  • About Anne Helen Petersen

    Anne Helen Petersen is here to tell you that the future of work is flexible. Her 2019 viral article, “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation,” and her follow-up book, Can’t Even, encapsulated the ramifications of an over-worked, over-anxious, and “over-optimized” generation setback by two financial catastrophes. Can’t Even gave Millennials the language to define their anger and frustration, and encouraged them to harness it for change. Now, she and Charlie Warzel offer a new path forward in Out of Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working from HomeCombining groundbreaking reporting and the couple’s own experiences after they decided to leave their desk jobs in New York City for Montana, Out of Office describes how workers and employers across America, and around the world, are finding new ways of working. 

     

    Petersen and Warzel’s groundbreaking book reshapes our entire relationship with the office, outlining a path toward a new kind of work-life balance that can improve our lives and strengthen our communities. However, Petersen warns that “If the structures aren’t in place, piecemeal hybrid schedules will fail, and we’ll end up right back where we were before.”

     

    In her talks to teams and organizations about the future of work, Petersen shares:

    • How to create real flexibility around working from home (not just working from home during a pandemic)
    • Strategies for battling burnout on an organizational level
    • How to extend flexibility outside the C-Suite 
    • How to coach leadership to manage remotely
    • The crucial relationship between remote work and a thriving diverse workforce 

    Petersen is also the author of two other books: Scandals of Classic Hollywood, a collection of celebrity gossip from the Golden Age of American cinema; and Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman, an analytical examination of how female celebrities push boundaries. A former writer for The Hairpin and senior writer at BuzzFeed News, she now publishes a Substack newsletter, Culture Study, which lands in over 45,000 inboxes every week. Petersen also curates the “Celebrity Gossip, Academic Style” Facebook group, which has over 44,000 followers. She attended Whitman College as an undergraduate, earned an MA in English from the University of Oregon, and received her Ph.D. in media studies from the University of Texas. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

  • Speaking Topics

    The Future of Work is Flexible

    The future of work isn’t completely remote, or completely in-person, or whatever difficult, exhausting situation you endured during the pandemic. The future of work is flexible: in location, but also in the blocks of time we dedicate to the job. That flexibility has the potential to make the workforce more inclusive than ever: to people with child and eldercare responsibilities, for people outside of major urban areas, to women and disabled workers and people who, forever whatever reason, do their best work when not tethered to an office desk for a set number of hours every day. Building on hundreds of interviews with “knowledge” workers, managers, and CEOs from different sectors, this talk will focus on rethinking the building blocks for a resilient, productive, and engaged workforce. This talk can be specifically catered to your organization’s specific needs, profile, and growth areas.

    Battling Organizational Burnout

    Consistently low energy at meetings. Pervasive resentment and passive aggression. Difficulty completing small but slightly onerous tasks. Feeling constantly overwhelmed, overcommitted, and drowning in a sea of email. Finding yourself distant or totally alienated from the passion that brought you to a particular field or job. All of these can be symptoms of organizational burnout — the sort that can’t be fixed by an all-company happy hour. This talk will draw on my extensive research on burnout, its societal and organizational causes, and its symptoms — and walk through various ways that any organization (a business, a non-profit, a religious group, a philanthropic cause, a political campaign) can work to name it, talk about it, and collaborate to prevent it in the future. This talk can easily be tailored an organization’s specific situation, and can be further refined to address managers, volunteers, students, working mothers or caregivers, etc.

  • Video

  • Praise for Anne Helen Petersen

    Praise for Can’t Even

    We think of capitalism as a way of organizing an economy. But given enough time, it goes beyond that: It organizes our lives, our hopes, our relationships. Anne Helen Petersen has written an analytically precise, deeply empathic book about the psychic toll modern capitalism has taken on those shaped by it. Can't Even is essential to understanding our age, and ourselves.

    Ezra Klein, Vox co-founder and New York Times bestselling author of Why We're Polarized

    Can't Even is a compelling exploration of the phenomenon of burnout and how an entire generation has been set up to fail. As a Millennial, reading this book was a deeply cathartic experience. Anne Helen Petersen articulates the struggles and motivation of a generation so impeccably. Reading this book made me feel like finally, someone understands me. I wish I could give this book to everyone I know.

    Taylor Lorenz, culture reporter, New York Times 

    Reading this incredible book, I had the overwhelming feeling of someone arranging the chaotic fragments of my life into a cohesive whole. Can’t Even felt like a field guide, a mirror, and an absolution. Compassionate, wise, and incisive, it is a defining work about a generation defined by work.

    Ed Yong, writer, The Atlantic and New York Times bestselling author of I Contain Multitudes

    Can't Even is the Nickel and Dimed of this generation. A cogent and sober analysis of the economic lives that decades of precarity has wrought, told in Petersen's smart, measured style.

    Tressie McMillan Cottom, assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina and author of the National Book Award finalist Thick: And Other Essays 

    Petersen’s third book, a highlight-every-sentence-in-recognition survey of the anxiety and exhaustion baked into the lives of myriad young people, dispels many of the myths and misconceptions—the laziness! the entitlement!—surrounding the generation that came of age amid the internet and economic collapse. Yet rather than pit millennials against boomers, Petersen makes meaningful and constructive connections between the toils and troubles of the two groups.

    O Magazine

    Whether you’re looking for solutions or just looking to feel seen, Can’t Even is a can’t-miss.

    Harper's Bazaar, "27 Best Books of 2020"

    Brilliant… Although Petersen wrote this before the pandemic, candidly talking about burnout culture that has now been impacted by two recessions, it’s more timely than ever.

    Apartment Therapy

    [A] razor sharp book of cultural criticism…With blistering prose and all-too vivid reporting, Petersen lays bare the burnout and despair of millennials, while also charting a path to a world where members of her generation can feel as if the boot has been removed from their necks.

    Esquire

    Trenchant and well-researched...an incisive portrait of a generation primed for revolt.

    Publishers Weekly

    In a cultural moment rife with inter-generational sparring ("OK, Boomer"), and with millennials garnering criticism for their transient-appearing lifestyles (never buying houses or napkins), Buzzfeed culture writer Petersen cracks open why millennials behave the way they do and how the lifestyles that have been forced upon them are a detriment to society as a whole...Petersen is generous in divulging personal experiences and hopeful even at her most enraged. This galvanizing read reminds readers that what seems impossible is absolutely not, especially for a generation with so little to lose.

    Booklist, STARRED review

    Articulate and persuasive...Petersen delivers a cogent explanation of the millennial landscape, incorporating in-depth research, interviews, and her own experiences to define the problems that millennials face as they attempt to live up to high, occasionally near-impossible expectations.

    Kirkus, STARRED review

    As one of the most insightful culture critics of our time, Anne explains how individuals, organizations, and societies can prevent emotional exhaustion.

    LinkedIn

    Brilliantly researched...Insightful in the vein of Betty Friedan's Feminine Mystique and powerful in the tradition of Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed, Petersen's Can't Even manages to engross and infuriate while still entertain.

    Shelf Awareness

    'Can't Even’ is a cry from the heart, as well as a bill of particulars about the debt, depression, special pressures and sheer exhaustion…It’s a call for revolution.

    Weekend Edition on NPR

    A sharp critique....It is my sincere hope that every millennial reads [this book].

    Bookpage, STARRED review

    Praise for Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

    Petersen interrogates our culture with precision and nuance.

    NPR, Best Books of 2017

    Supremely thoughtful…snappy and compelling…[Petersen’s essays] highlight the paradoxical expectations American culture places on women, in particular, the mixed messages it sends: the ‘you can do anything,’ rubbing awkwardly against the ‘you can’t do everything.’

    Megan Garber, The Atlantic

    A timely and essential read…Petersen’s analytical skills are as vigorous [and] her prose and reporting are entertaining.

    Keziah Weir, ELLE

    Petersen writes with equal amounts of rigor and empathy…her point feels like a warning bell: Our cultural lens on celebrity women reflects back on women en masse. We don’t have to love their unruliness, but we need to change the attitudes that so narrowly define them.

    Andi Zeisler, Bitch

    Anne Helen Petersen’s gloriously bumptious, brash ode to non-conforming women suits the needs of this dark moment. Petersen’s careful examination of how we eviscerate the women who confound or threaten is crucial reading if we are ever to be better.

    Rebecca Traister, New York Times bestselling author of All the Single Ladies

    In a time when women are under constant attack, I am so grateful for Anne Helen Petersen’s sharp and topical book. Petersen nails the magnetism of women who break boundaries and the punishment that often comes along with it. All women will see a bit of themselves in the ‘unruly.’

    Jessica Valenti, New York Times bestselling author of Sex Object

    Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud could not be coming out at a more perfect time. As society is reacting to and still grappling with the ever-changing understanding of feminism, Petersen’s book holds a mirror up and shows us how we view women and ourselves. It’s equal parts rallying cry and heady examination; and it’s my new best friend, who empowers me to kick butt in life.

    Phoebe Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of You Can’t Touch My Hair 

    Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is an oasis in a sea of hot takes, a set of crisp essays on the provocateurs who fascinate and enrage us. With warmth and wit, Anne Helen Petersen celebrates the power of being just a little too much, seeking the rebel inside the trainwreck.

    Emily Nussbaum, critic at The New Yorker

    Bold and empowering…an engaging exploration of the women celebrities who are defying stereotypes and redefining what it means to be female.

    Bustle 

    [Petersen’s] research and observations are eye-opening…but the best part of the book is Petersen’s devotion to intersectionality, which is all too often missing from discussions about feminism. For anyone who considers themselves a feminist, this book is a must-read.

    Refinery 29

    [A] trenchant and intersectional analysis of the celebrity narratives we create around famous women who, in some way, defy the cultural scripts of classed and raced femininity … [Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud] will be appreciated by anyone seeking to understand the vicious social judgement that women—particularly high-profile, successful women—continue to face in our era.

    Library Journal

    Thought-provoking…Through incisive analysis of the ways in which contemporary society polices femininity, Petersen reveals the fraught relationship between women and celebrity. A sharp, compelling collection of social and cultural criticism.

    Kirkus

    Praise for Scandals of Classic Hollywood

    Engaging…Petersen is an author for our age.

    The Boston Globe

    Insightful.

    TIME Magazine

    Clear and convincing…Although Petersen’s book benefits from intelligent analysis of archival research, she writes with the verve of an enthusiast.

    LA Times

    Terrific and thoughtful and fascinating.

    NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour

    Smart, relevant, and fun…think TMZ with a PhD.

    Bitch

    Compulsively readable.

    The Rumpus

    [This] dishy book delivers the juicy anecdotes readers crave.

    NY Post

    Dishy as hell.

    Refinery29

    Not merely a rehash of salacious old Hollywood gossip, Petersen revivifies flattened images of Hollywood icons…Wide-ranging and surprisingly thoughtful.

    Kirkus

    Brisk and lively.

    Library Journal
  • Books by Anne Helen Petersen

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