Ina Opperman

By Ina Opperman

Business Journalist

Are you quiet quitting? Here’s how to ensure a good work-life balance

Everyone is talking about quiet quitting, but what is it really, and how can you and your boss meet each other in the middle?

Are you quiet quitting at work? You can do something about it to change how you feel and ensure that your job is safe, if you do not want to join the ‘Great Resignation’ that everyone is talking about.

But what is quiet quitting?

“If you are unhappy at work, but leaving your job is not an option or there are no appealing alternatives, you may want to try ‘quiet quitting’, the trend of simply doing the bare minimum expected at work that has taken off on TikTok and has clearly resonated with young people,” Nilufar Ahmed, senior lecturer in social sciences at the University of Bristol, writes on The Conversation.

Quiet quitting is frustrating managers, with some reportedly concerned about their employees slacking off, but Ahmed writes it is not about avoiding work, it is about not avoiding a meaningful life outside of work.

Ahmed says over the past 20 years many people joined a global culture of overwork, with unpaid labour becoming an expected part of many jobs.

“After multiple recessions and a global pandemic, millennials and generation Z in particular often do not have the same job opportunities and financial security as their parents.”

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Young people struggling

Many young people in professional jobs, who expected a relatively straightforward progression in life, struggled with precarious contracts, job uncertainties and trying to get onto the housing ladder. Some constantly put in extra hours and go above and beyond at work to try and secure promotions and bonuses and yet still struggle.

“Perhaps in response to this disappointment, a recent study by Deloitte found young people are increasingly seeking flexibility and purpose in their work, as well as balance and satisfaction in their lives. Many young professionals are now rejecting the live-to-work lifestyle, by continuing to work but not allowing work to control them.”

Although, Ahmed writes, working at minimal capacity may feel alien, you (and your employer) should not fear quiet quitting as it could actually be good for you as working less is good for mental health.

Studies have found that work-life balance is linked to mental health in a variety of jobs and a 2021 survey of 2 017 UK workers by employer review website Glassdoor found that over half felt they had poor work-life balance.

Quiet quitting aims to restore the balance where work has crept into your personal time and can also help to separate your self-worth from work. “When all you have is work, it is hard not to derive your sense of value from it.”

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Perceived failures at work

Ahmed says perceived failures at work, such as not getting a promotion or recognition for your achievements, can become internalised as personal failures.

“This can increase anxiety, making you worry about how to improve your performance. Often, people respond by doing more work, further exacerbating the vicious cycle of overwork and low self-esteem.”

When things get really bad, Ahmed says, it can result in burnout. In 2019, the World Health Organisation officially recognised burnout as an occupational phenomenon characterised by feelings of depletion, exhaustion, cynicism, mental distance from work and poorer performance.

Burnout is a significant risk of overwork and can have long-term physical, emotional and mental health impacts.

“It is difficult and costly for individuals and employers. Many people with burnout end up taking time off work, or at least working at less than full capacity. Quiet quitting can create a better balance of work and personal life and could protect against burnout before it happens.”

In addition, research shows that happier employees are more productive and engaged, while this can even prevent employees form feeling distracted or not wanting to be present.

When people are feeling happy, they are more likely to be friendlier and open, fostering workplace friendships, which people report as being a significant part of their enjoyment at work.

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Just doing your job

“Quiet quitting’s focus on just doing your job also removes the negative impact of constantly feeling in competition with peers,” Ahmed writes.

Having workplace friendships taps in to our basic need for a sense of belonging and can in turn increase loyalty to a workplace and improve job performance.

All of this can result in greater productivity, which of course means higher profits, he says.

Quiet quitting could be a ‘great liberation’ in response to the great resignation.

“People are rejecting overwork and burnout and choosing balance and joy. They are establishing boundaries to avoid their identity and self-value being tied to their work productivity.”

Ahmed’s advice to employers is to take advantage of the quiet quitting movement to support the wellbeing of their staff instead of getting nervous about loss of productivity.

“Encouraging a better work-life balance will communicate to workers that they are valued, leading to greater engagement, productivity and loyalty with the end result that everyone wins.”