The “great resignation” had become a buzzword in many offices last year, not to mention calls on Teams, Zoom, and Slack). In 2021, the UK recorded a sharp rise in people quitting their jobs, and a fifth of workers still say they planned to resign in the next year for better pay and greater job satisfaction.
If leaving a job isn’t an option, despite being unhappy at work, a new trend has emerged — “quiet quitting”. The trend, which involves simply doing the expected bare minimum at work, has taken off on TikTok and resonated with young people.
The trend has also emerged as a cause for frustration among managers, with some reports suggesting that they are concerned that their employees were slacking off. But quiet quitting does not mean avoiding work, but about not avoiding a meaningful life outside work.
Over the past 20 years, many people joined the global culture of overwork and unpaid labour became the expected norm in several jobs. After a global pandemic and multiple recessions, Generation Z and millennials, in particular, do not have the same financial security and job opportunities that their parents had.
Many young professionals who expected a rather straightforward progression have struggled with job uncertainties, precarious contracts, and trying to get on the housing ladder. There are some who put in the extra hours and go above and beyond to try and secure bonuses and promotions — but still struggle.
A recent Deloitte study found young people, perhaps responding to this disappointment, are increasingly seeking purpose and flexibility in their work, and satisfaction and balance in their lives. Many young people are now turning their backs on the live-to-work lifestyle by continuing to work but not allowing it to control them.
Working at minimal capacity could feel alien. But an employee (and employer) should not fear quiet quitting — it could actually be a blessing in disguise.
GOOD FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Several studies have found a link between work-life balance and mental health in a variety of jobs. A 2021 survey of 2,017 workers in the UK by Glassdoor, an employer review website, found that more than half felt they had a poor work-life balance. Quiet quitting looks to restore balance where work has eaten into personal time.
It can also help separate self-worth from work. It is easier to derive a sense of value from work when that is all one has.
Perceived failures at the workplace, such as not getting promotions or recognition for achievements, can often be internalised as personal failures. This could lead to higher anxiety and concern over how to improve performance. People often respond by doing more, further exacerbating the vicious cycle of low self-esteem and overwork.
When things get really bad, it can lead to burnout. The World Health Organization, in 2019, recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon and characterised it as feelings of depletion, cynicism, exhaustion, poorer performance, and mental distance from work. Burnout is a significant risk of overwork and can lead to long-term emotional, physical, and mental health impacts.
It is also costly and difficult for employers and individuals. Many people with burnout take time off work, or at least work at less than full capacity. Quiet quitting creates a better balance work-personal life balance to protect against burnout.
BETTER RELATIONSHIPS AT WORK
Happier employees are more engaged and productive, research shows. This can mitigate against distractions or not wanting to be present.
When people feel happy, they are more likely to be open and friendlier, fostering freindships at the workplace that people report as being a significant part of enjoyment at work. Quiet quitting focuses on doing a job to remove the negative impact of constantly competing with peers.
Workplace friendships also tap into the basic human need for a sense of belonging and can improve job performance and increase loyalty to a workplace. All of this results in greater productivity and higher profits.
Quiet quitting has emerged as a “great liberation” in response to the great resignation trend. People are rejecting overwork and choosing balance, establishing boundaries so that their self-value and identity is not tied to their productivity at work.
Instead of getting nervous at productivity loss, employers should use quiet quitting as an advantage and support the wellbeing of their staff members. Encouraging a better work-life balance will ensure that workers know that they are valued, leading to higher engagement and productivity, and loyalty.