Have you come across the latest trend by workers, known as ‘quiet quitting’? The term has been used for the past year or so, however one TikTok user’s recent explanation of the phenomenon has sparked widespread debate about whether it is the best way to deal with feelings of burnout and the desire to re-balance life’s priorities.

First thing’s first, what is quiet quitting?

In short, it is the opposite of hustle culture – a trend were completing goals is far more important and desirable than taking time off when feeling overwhelmed or the need for a break comes up. Quiet quitting, on the other hand, is carrying out the duties an employee is contractually obliged to do so, and not going above and beyond for a particular role.

It can mean saying no to projects at work that do not fall within the job description, making an effort to leave on time, even if one’s daily goals have not been met, and not replying to work-chat or emails outside office hours.

While hustle culture promotes giving one’s all to work – including overtime and a neglect of private life, quiet quitting on the other hand is a reduction of performance to a point where responsibilities placed onto the employee are being met, but no initiative is taken to go above and beyond a particular assignment.

A now viral TikTok from user @zkchillin last week sparked widespread debate, where he explained the phenomenon like so:

“You’re not outright quitting your job, but you’re quitting the idea of going above and beyond. You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life – the reality is, it’s not.”

Why is quiet quitting on the rise and what are the reasons behind it?

It is a widely held view that quiet quitting is often carried out by workers who feel they have no job alternatives, are highly dependent on the income from a particular job, or are transitioning towards new employment.

By no longer expending so much mental energy on a particular job, more energy can be placed on new side projects and hustles, but some reports say that there are also quiet quitters who simply want to spend more time with friends, family or on hobbies.

Discussion has also focused on the fact that after two pandemic years, and the lines between work and leisure having been blurred due to enforced lockdowns and so much time spent at home, a widespread feeling of burnout is making workers take a step back and reassess their priorities.

Persistent staff shortages have meant that workers in many industries have been lumped with more duties, further compounding the feeling of burnout.

Others believe that when employers unilaterally cut hours or released workers in order to survive the pandemic, many workers were left feeling dispensable, further reducing the motivation to go above and beyond for their employer.

Quiet quitting is a spectrum

For some workers, the embracing of quiet quitting can mean a simple shift in mindset, hardly noticeable by colleagues or management. It can mean being disciplined with preventing a particular issue at work to overwhelm an individual with stress, being disciplined about not taking one’s work issues home with them, and accepting that certain problems will not be tackled from one day to the next.

For others, it can mean a highly suggestive and pronounced behavioural change at the work place, perhaps signalling to employers problems or difficulties an employee is experiencing, or that a particular worker is seeing what is out there on the job market.

One thing’s for sure though, the 2018-2019 discussions surrounding hustle culture, and how young workers are prioritising work over everything else in their life has come to an end. The pandemic, and now war on Europe’s doorstep, has caused a seismic shift in the way individuals prioritise their work-life balance.

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