Your holiday workload, in the words of Fifth Harmony

Why “Work From Home” is actually about your holiday reading

Cambridge fifth harmony holiday work University of Cambridge winter

We have just crossed into Week Six territory, which means two things. First, you are almost at the end of Michaelmas term – congratulations! Second, you have been steadily cultivating a healthy backlog of work that you’ve been putting off for the holidays (and I’m willing to bet that it’s not Further Reading). The prospect of actually facing up to this growing backlog is looming ever closer. So, enjoy getting through Week Five, but be wary that there is plenty more where that came from, and it’s coming for you in the holidays.

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Happy Holidays, Cantab!

As a lowly, bottom-feeding student circling the drain of academia, you would probably imagine yourself having little in common with the award-winning, world-famous girl group Fifth Harmony. See, that’s where you’d be wrong. A critical reading of the group’s platinum-selling single Work From Home actually reveals that Fifth Harmony are also familiar with the plight of accumulated holiday reading. Below, you will find definitive proof that the inspiration behind Work From Home was not, in fact, the notion of ‘putting work’ into mischievous sexual exploits with a consenting partner, but rather, the joyful and sensual experience of spending precious home time in the holidays getting through a build-up of holiday reading.

Work From Home: An Allegory to Holiday Reading

Verse 1

I ain't worried 'bout nothin I ain't wearin' na nada

Actual footage of your Michaelmas naiveté, Credit: Epic Records

The opening lines of Work From Home depict a young, naive Fifth Harmony member in blissful pre-holiday reading condition. The mention of her lack of clothing, a clear use of hyperbole on the lyricist's part, exemplifies her free, unencumbered state of mind.

I’m sittin’ pretty, impatient, but I know you gotta Put in them hours, I’mma make it harder I’m sending pic after picture, I’mma get you fired

The ladies of Fifth Harmony step into the holiday reading’s shoes here, imagining the frustration of the rogue articles at the end of a reading list over being ignored for the big fish at the top. They do not divulge how said anthropomorphised articles have developed picture-sending capabilities, but it can be safely assumed that they are making a veiled reference to thumbnails of unread PDFs they’ve downloaded from JSTOR.


I know you’re always on the night shift But I can’t stand these nights alone And I don’t need no explanation ‘Cause baby, you’re the boss at home

The ‘night shift’ referred to here is no doubt an allusion to the university student’s relatable late night grind. In the line ‘I can’t stand these nights alone’, the girls reiterate the continued frustration that items on our reading lists must feel at being passed up, time and time again, for later. ‘I don’t need no explanation’ calls to mind the excuses we give ourselves that we will eventually get around to those pesky articles in the holidays, and that it doesn’t matter if we don’t read them now, as they’re only good for academic opinion anyway. The final line, ‘Cause baby you’re the boss at home’, is sung on a note of cruel, cruel irony: we are decidedly not the boss at home, as will soon be revealed in the ensuing chorus; rather, it is our holiday workload that dominates and subordinates us, even in the comfort of our own homes.

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You think you're the boss of that measuring tape? Think again. It's probably wound itself into a chokehold around your neck already.


You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work But you gotta put in work, work, work, work, work, work, work You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work Let my body do the work, work, work, work, work, work, work

This is the real climax of the song, its message drilled in especially hard by the droning repetition of the word ‘work’. Aside from forming a memorable hook for radio audiences, this use of repetition really serves as a vehicle to convey the sheer oppressive weight of our holiday reading lists, and the dull, mechanical manner in which we have to work through them. The real message of Work From Home comes forth in the lyrics ‘You don’t gotta go to work (repeat x6)… / But you gotta put in work (repeat x6)’, which highlights the sad reality that, despite not being physically in Cambridge, we are most certainly not off the hook with work.

You think you're safe just because you've left CB1/2/3? Credit: Epic Records

The saying goes: ‘Where words fail, music speaks’. The word ‘work’ appears 97 times in Work From Home, which pretty much sums up the experience of catching up on holiday work after Michaelmas term. As countless DoS and tutor meetings have surely impressed on us by now, our breaks aren't so much a holiday from work as they are merely a holiday away from the geographical location of Cambridge. Best brace yourself for a lovely working holiday. I do have one suggestion for Fifth Harmony though – instead of ‘We can work from home’, perhaps they should contemplate a more accurate lyrical summary: ‘We [have no choice but to] work from home.’

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Get your hard hat on, Cantab. Credit: Epic Records