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The impact of quiet quitting: exploring the facts

Stephanie Hsu
quiet quitting, burnout

The quiet quitting trend needs a rebrand. "
Quiet quitting" typically refers to employees silently leaving their job without notice or intentionally underperforming to provoke termination and gain benefits.

The rise of "quiet quitting" is a result of increasing burnout and stress among workers. Muse's 2022 Brain Health Report states, 32% of Americans have considered leaving their jobs, with 14% admitting to have quiet quit in the past year.

When you ask "quiet quitters" about this trend, you'll discover that quiet quitting isn't what it seems. Rather than being about quitting your job or turning in a poor performance, quiet quitting really seems to refer to ditching the hustle culture mentality, doing the minimum that’s expected of you in order to keep your job, creating clear boundaries, and prioritizing other aspects of your life.

It makes you wonder, is quiet quitting a bad thing?

A recent Gallup poll found that over 50% of Americans currently fall into the category of quiet quitters…

What does this say about the current state of our workplaces and the expectations placed upon employees? 

Can we find a balance that meets organizational goals while respecting employees' time and values?

What causes quiet quitting, and how can we address it effectively?

Let’s dive in.

What is quiet quitting?

According to responses sent into NPR, quiet quitting may be better dubbed as:

  • Working to thrive
  • Work-life integration
  • Reverse hustle
  • DYJ: Doing Your Job
  • Working at work

And more.

What these names really speak to is the current state of employees and workforces. 

Workplace stress fueled by fears of getting let go, rampant job insecurity, and even retracted job offers in a quickly shifting economy prompted by the pandemic pushed many into a state of burnout. And in the post-pandemic world, people have come to understand what really matters to them. 

quiet quitting

In other words, priorities and values have shifted.

Many organizations have long taken advantage of employees, asking for additional work-off hours, often unpaid. In some industries, employees are often asked to sacrifice personal time or self-care to meet managers' demands, even though hiring more staff or improving efficiency could be the better solution.

The shift to remote work in 2020 led to burnout due to the constant need to be "on." Employees had to learn how to set boundaries in order to prevent burnout and preserve their wellbeing. 

Naturally, these strong boundaries and shifted priorities have carried forward into the post-pandemic world of work.

With the labor market favoring employees, many feel secure in their jobs and know they have other options if they're let go. After enduring job uncertainty and striving during the pandemic, many have reached a breaking point. They will fulfill their responsibilities but not go beyond that. When the workday ends, they're completely off from work without any exceptions.

Notably, this seems to say more about the expectations of organizations than it does “laziness” on the part of the employee. They do what's required in their job description, but they've realized there are more important things than overworking in a job that doesn't prioritize their wellbeing.

burnout, quiet quit

Are companies losing their competitive advantage due to quiet quitting?

The term quiet quitting is fairly new, but the concept of doing the bare minimum at work is far from a recent invention. According to the mentioned Gallup poll, the number of quiet quitters didn't significantly change employee engagement compared to previous years.

The only age group that showed a significant drop in engagement was younger workers under the age of 35.

Ultimately, organizations have been dealing with workers doing the bare minimum long before this term popped up last August. While social media brought attention to the term and the disengagement of many young workers, it's not a new phenomenon.

In this way, it doesn’t seem fair to pin the success or failure on this “new trend.”

What it does speak to, is that if organizations want to succeed, they may need to consider new ways of engaging with, motivating, and inspiring their employees, without sacrificing work/life balance or employee wellbeing.

(According to Gallup, the best way employers can approach this is by “having one meaningful conversation per week with each team member — 15-30 minutes.”)

quiet quit

Is quiet quitting the answer?

Many now reject the "hustle culture" of making work their entire life, showing a significant shift towards prioritizing wellbeing and what truly matters.

But is quiet quitting really the answer?

According to time management writer and researcher Jeffrey Kam — it isn’t.

Employees may believe disengaging from work preserves their wellbeing, the answer may actually lie in becoming more engaged and productive. 

In a time satisfaction study he ran beginning in the spring of 2021, he surveyed over 140 busy people. Most of them expressed feeling constantly burnt out and exhausted, overwhelmed by an endless to-do list that hindered relaxation.

Over the next nine weeks, Kam had them apply nine time-management strategies that invited people to counterintuitively add more to their lives, rather than doing less. Instead of strict work/life boundaries or idle leisure time, Kam encouraged participants to engage in physical activity, enjoy mini-adventures, and opt for more effortful leisure activities like reading instead of binge-watching shows.

Another crucial aspect was introducing the concept of dedicating a few hours each week to intentional activities chosen by the participants.

By the end of the nine weeks, participants' schedules were jam-packed. And amazingly, participants felt like their time was more abundant. Life felt more rich, and their satisfaction levels rose by a staggering 16% by the end of the project.

**It’s important to note that this experiment helped busy people feel more empowered in their off-time, even while they gave more energy in the time they were at work. If you’re working for an employer who is constantly pushing into your personal time or is not compensating you fairly, then creating strong work/life boundaries that protect your mental health and wellbeing may be essential.

Ultimately, if you’re looking to live a more fulfilling and joyful life, quiet quitting may not be the answer.

Instead, finding ways to enrich your life in your off-time, or looking for a job that feels more fulfilling and inspires you to be more engaged could be more powerful pathways to creating the life you’re looking for.

So, how can organizations engage and motivate employees? As an employer, building genuine relationships and trust with employees, aligning with their values, and prioritizing their wellbeing are vital to enhancing workplace engagement.

corporate wellness

How can mindfulness practices help combat quiet quitting?

Incorporating innovative tools like the Muse 2 Headband and the Muse S Headband can provide valuable support in cultivating mindfulness and enhancing wellbeing among employees. These advanced headbands provide real-time feedback and guidance, helping individuals improve their meditation practice and achieve focused relaxation.

With features such as measuring brain activity, heart rate, and other physiological parameters, the Muse headbands empower individuals to prioritize their mental and emotional health, leading to improved productivity, stress reduction, and overall wellbeing.

Learn more here >

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