Although easy, low-skill, remote work might sound like a dream, these gigs are far from perfect.

Rose*, 39, lives in Brooklyn and works in tech support “for a product that doesn’t need to exist,” she says. Her job consists of sending emails to customers seeking help with the product, which sometimes involves nothing more than copying and pasting relevant instructions from her company’s internal documentation.

“All I have to do is hit a certain number of emails to send each day,” she says. “I don’t even have my work email on my phone.”

Rose has been in this industry for the last seven years, having stumbled into it through a temp gig. Previously, she was as a personal assistant in Hollywood. In that role, she says, she worked all the time.

“I had no semblance of my own life, let alone a work-life balance,” she says.

Her tech support job is worlds different. She works standard hours, runs errands during the day, calls her sister when things get slow, and doesn’t think about her job when she’s done with her shift. This has given her the opportunity to have a social life and hobbies, as well as to work on her own career as an author. She had enjoyed book writing before she worked in entertainment, and she finally has time to pursue it professionally because of her less-time-consuming gig.

“My identity was so wrapped up in my previous job. Now, I get to have my identity be my own,” she says.

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Rose — who, like many people interviewed for this story, asked to have her last name withheld for privacy reasons — says she has what people on TikTok and X have been calling “fake email jobs.” These roles, according to the social-media-rati are generally remote, require few hard skills, have little managerial oversight, and typically need little time or effort from an employee. With more people working remotely than before the pandemic, and more and more U.S. jobs undergoing digitization and requiring less than eight hours of work a day, more workers may feel like their full-time gig matches the description.

Getting paid to hang out at home and send a few emails might seem like a dream job, and sometimes it is. A “fake email job” can be a breath of fresh air for people leaving more stressful roles, giving them time to pursue their own interests, focus on their families, or enjoy full social lives. Sometimes, it’s just nice not to work that hard. But it can also feel unfulfilling and unchallenging at times, especially for people seeking more of a sense of purpose from their work.

When she started her job, the slower pace was a little startling. “I was like, ‘Um, I guess I’m not doing anything. OK, I’m just going to sit here and move my mouse around.’”

Kate, from Texas, spent a decade in nonprofit fundraising, work she found meaningful but ultimately “incredibly stressful and difficult” due to the super-long hours, low pay, and the need to wear many hats.

“I got really burned out. The job became my identity; I worked overtime all the time,” the 36-year-old says. “I couldn’t do it anymore. It was killing me.”

The breaking point came when Kate and her live-in partner split up and she found herself taking on all the bills, prompting her to seek a higher paying role. Though she was looking for a higher-level nonprofit role, a friend asked her to apply for an open project manager job in IT, which Kate now has and considers a “fake email job.” She starts her day at 8 a.m. (her job is East Coast based), has a few short meetings and tasks, closes her laptop at 4 or 4:30 p.m., and calls it a day.

“It’s the easiest job I’ve ever had,” she says. “I got a five-figure raise just from changing jobs. It’s fully remote; I send emails; I’m on Teams calls and send Teams chats all day. It doesn’t take a full eight hours of work to do everything.”

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When she started her job, the slower pace was a little startling. “I was like, ‘Um, I guess I’m not doing anything. OK, I’m just going to sit here and move my mouse around.’ That’s really what it felt like,” she says.

Unlike Rose, Kate feels a little conflicted. Though her fake email job has given her the opportunity to recover from burnout, she was passionate about her old career and misses doing work that directly impacted people’s lives. But she doesn’t miss the anxiety, stress, and lower pay. Now that she has free time, she is able to take piano lessons, spend time with friends, actually use her vacation days, and even date, all things she couldn’t pursue previously because of her all-consuming career.

Despite the perks, the position isn’t perfect. “I would like to find a way to volunteer to help me feel like I’m giving back more, but for the time being, I’m tired,” she adds.

“I’ve gone weeks doing nothing to see how far I could push it, and the only reason I stopped is that I got bored, not because someone asked me to do something,” Dan says.

Goali Saedi Bocci, a licensed psychologist in private practice, says that “fake email jobs” can be helpful — temporarily or otherwise — for people who need less stress in their professional life.

“It’s ideal for someone who has high anxiety and is leading a job that’s very stressful, very demanding, they don’t have time for personal passions and pursuits, friends, or relationships,” she says. “In those cases, it’s like, ‘OK, let’s find you something that may be below your pay grade and competencies, but it’ll at least get you some income, give you a chance to come up for air, and assess what next steps look like.’”

But she warns that while an easy gig seems ideal, not everyone will benefit from this kind of role. “No one’s getting to self-actualization through these kinds of jobs,” she says. “For some folks, it’s great; for some folks, it’s soul-sucking. It’s not one-size-fits-all.”

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Dan*, a video producer in his mid-30s who also lives in the New York area, is in the latter camp. He used to produce videos for various media companies in full-time roles and as a freelancer. After switching to a marketing job to avoid media layoffs — a gig from which, ironically, he got laid off — Dan spent four months unemployed, applying to more than 100 open roles until he finally landed another marketing position, a role he calls “my fakest job yet.”

“I’ve gone weeks doing nothing to see how far I could push it, and the only reason I stopped is that I got bored, not because someone asked me to do something,” Dan says.

A typical business day for him largely consists of logging onto Slack and Gmail, browsing the Internet for fun, running errands, and playing video games or working on his own short films and screenplays, with a couple of hours of meetings and actual work sprinkled in. He finds his side pursuits pretty satisfying, but he is frustrated by the doldrums of his actual responsibilities.

He likes getting paid a good wage to do very little work, especially after years of hustling in media. But on the other hand, he says, “We have one life to live... There are definitely moments where it hits me just how meaningless so much of my day (and life!) is right now, and it can be hard to not get depressed.”

For some people, a “fake email job” is the difference between life and death.

Some people find that their “fake email job” is an opportunity to de-stress; for others, it causes anxiety. In Lily*’s last social-media position, she had few daily tasks, felt like her managers didn’t know what her job was supposed to be, made her own schedule, and would sometimes just “type a few things into Slack” and call it a day. And while the 36-year-old New Yorker liked having a relatively easy, undermanaged gig, she hadn’t realized her job would be so lax, and she worried that she was supposed to be performing at a higher level.

“Some of my goals and [key performance indicators] were so ill-defined, I found myself asking for more challenging work,” she says. “Partially because I was bored and partially because I wanted to show I was going above and beyond.”

Lily says she was “begging to be managed” and worried constantly that since her job was so ambiguous, the company would deem her unnecessary and lay her off — which it did, only a year and a half into her tenure. But she’d still like a similar gig in the future.

“I’d like to do my little tasks, have a pension, have dental,” she says.

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For some people, a “fake email job” is the difference between life and death. Bethany*, 36, is an artist, but makes a living by working in sales for a large corporation. The majority of her role is done remotely; most of her day is spent talking to people internally and externally about various products and services. Bethany has been in sales for the last two decades; she began her career in her native United States, where health insurance is predominantly tied to employment, and for her, a full-time job is a necessity. Sales, she says, felt like a relatively easy way to get full benefits without having to learn any additional hard skills.

“When I graduated from college, I really needed health insurance because I have a chronic health condition that’s expensive and I’m on life-sustaining medication,” she says. “I had dreams about going off and being an artist, but my main concern was getting health insurance as soon as possible.”

She took her current London-based job a few years ago in part so she could have access to nationalized health care. Bethany still writes and makes art, although she says she never got to the point in her artistic career where she could afford her medication without a full-time position. Her “fake email job” allows her to continue working on her own projects — though she notes that it’s not quite as easy of a gig as some of her fellow artist friends think.

“One of the biggest misconceptions my creative friends have had is that there’s a logging off time,” she says. “My days are sort of flexible, where if I want to do a spin class or something at 8 a.m., I can. [But] at the same time, when I’m on vacation, I’m usually still taking calls.”

For most people interviewed for this story, a “fake email job” helped them separate their jobs from their internal senses of self. Bocci says that tying your identity to work is a uniquely Western concept. “So much of our identity is tied up in our careers. ‘I am this,’ ‘I do that,’” she says. “It’s like how we don’t use our vacation days, while other countries take a full month off in the summer.”

“It’s absolutely OK to have a job that doesn’t matter to you so long as your mental health is in a good place and you are able to attend to your other spaces,” she says. “At the end of the day, work is a part of a meaningful life, but it’s not the sole ingredient to it.”

*Name has been changed.

Expert interviewed:

Goali Saedi Bocci, a licensed psychologist in private practice