By Sofie Kagen
‘Quiet quitting’ was all the rage on TikTok this summer. One video generated almost half a million likes! What is this trend and what does it signify for those of us in high school who have just started career planning? The use of the word quitting is a bit misleading and carries negative connotations. People engaging in this behaviour are not leaving their work, but rather redefining it and working more efficiently and sustainably, while proactively safeguarding their health and wellbeing. China’s 2021 young adult “lying flat” trend ignited workers to question, resist and move away from a “toxic productivity above all else” culture. While quiet quitting often elicits negative reactions generally and certainly on the part of employers, consider the less talked about positives fuelling and resulting from this growing movement.
Our tech driven, digital lives allow work to follow employees home, on vacation and is essentially omnipresent 24/7. This overwhelm leaves precious little time left to do anything else and increasingly people can’t even enjoy the benefits of their hard work. The low quality of life that results leaves people demotivated, bored and saddened about their circumstances, increasing absenteeism and decreasing worker productivity. Me-time boosts mood, lowers stress levels, strengthens communities and our workforce. Its economic and social value is very underrated. When people have stronger relationships with families and friends outside of work, the more reliable, resilient they will be as workers at work. Quiet quitting is really a grassroots way of covertly pushing this better work/life balance agenda forward.
Secondly, quiet quitting improves physical and mental health. Work often takes a very large toll on people’s well-being and this movement helps guard against the extremely high societal costs of pervasive burnout, illness, and distress. “Health is wealth”, and without it we simply can’t be or do our best. Quiet quitting is not quitting working hard, it’s quitting sacrificing personal health and readjusting priorities for the mutual benefit of all concerned.
Thirdly, while the biggest complaint (and myth) about quiet quitting is that these workers don't care and perform worse on the job, in reality, studies prove this false. Workers are generally much more productive when healthier reasonable limits are set and they are not forced to excessively multi-task beyond their capacities. Completing the principal work assigned very well, but purposely not going beyond, accomplishes tasks most effectively, efficiently and sustainably. Multi-tasking is not how our brains work and asking workers to do this only leads to worse results. The calmer, more positive and clearer minds of those who have bravely set their own healthy boundaries and quiet quitted helps reduce the huge costs and complexities of avoidable errors, rampant worker burnout and employee turnover.
COVID-19 changed the way people feel about their lives and forced everyone to reconsider how they spend their time. Unfortunately, bills are not going anywhere and corporate culture is slow to change. At least quiet quitting provides workers some way to set more appropriate and sustainable work boundaries. Due to the many negative effects of low employee motivation, poor health and unsustainable obligations, it is imperative, and beneficial, for workers and employers alike, that workers are increasingly “putting their own oxygen mask on first” and not working themselves into the ground (i.e., the lying flat concept). This both makes sense for employees and makes businesses more cents! Perhaps the movement should be renamed. Most workers quiet quitting are simply applying reasonable, sustainable protective limits, not quitting or slacking on the job. In sum, quiet quitting or sustainable work boundaries, as I’d prefer to call it, is a highly effective way of improving the quality, efficiency and sustainability of our workplace culture.