As COVID-19 pushed many in the workforce to work from home, the boundaries between work and personal life were continually blurred. Millennials found themselves experiencing increasing rates of burnout from unsustainable working hours chasing corporate success. With many seeking better solutions to achieve a more balanced and sustainable career, could quiet quitting be the answer?
What is Quiet Quitting?
Contrary to what the name suggests, quiet quitting does not involve quitting one’s job. Instead, quiet quitting is the rejection of the idea that one should go above and beyond at their job. The term was popularised on social media platform TikTok in 2022. Many working millennials cited experiencing burnout from making their careers their main priority. It is not uncommon to work long gruelling hours in order to impress your boss, chase promotion or even just to feel like you are on par with your peers.
Others also expressed dissatisfaction that the effort that they put into their job was not rewarded, being denied promotions and pay raises and even citing that companies made them feel incredibly replaceable. The feeling of being a cog in the machine has started to plague many, resulting in decreased sense of satisfaction about their jobs.
This shift in sentiment also represents a backlash against hustle culture, which advocates for people to make their careers and financial success their main priority in life. It encourages people to put their 110% into their work and to take on as many tasks or jobs as possible. This was especially harmful during the pandemic as social media perpetuated the idea that if you had not achieved anything during your free time in lockdown, it’s because you’re lazy.
As a result, many working millennials have started to become burnt out. Singaporeans experienced a great degree of burnout during the pandemic, with 57% of respondents in a survey done by CNA citing that burnout was the leading factor affecting mental health. The idea of quiet quitting has resonated with a lot of people as they grapple with their mental wellness and feelings of exhaustion and disillusionment.
The Origins of Quiet Quitting
The idea of quiet quitting is not new. The movement is said to be inspired by a similar Chinese movement that swept social media back in 2021. Tang ping or “lying flat” is the idea that one should reject the social pressure to join the rat race and participate in the 996 working-hour system where one works 9am to 9pm, six days a week. Instead, the idea is that one should learn to be content with more attainable accomplishments. Rather than pushing yourself too hard in your career, you should allow yourself time to unwind and enjoy life outside of work.
Such a mentality comes in direct conflict with Chinese president Xi Jing Ping’s ethos of the “Chinese Dream”. The Chinese Dream embodies the idea that Chinese citizens should do whatever they can in order to make China a dominant world power, both culturally and economically. This idea has baked into Chinese culture that working long hours in a fast-paced environment is necessary and encouraged. Tang ping is a passive resistance movement where one chooses to lie flat in protest of overworking for diminishing personal rewards.
How Could Adopting Certain Aspects of Quiet Quitting Benefit You?
Setting Boundaries At Work
Setting boundaries at work can be extremely empowering. This could mean different things for different people. It could be done through not working overtime, not checking emails after working hours or not taking up extra tasks beyond your job scope. Having a proper rest can allow you to decompress and be mentally fresh when you return to work, making you more productive. You might start to find yourself accomplishing more during the day after some well-deserved rest.
Setting boundaries is key in preventing burnout. Not only do you ensure that you are getting proper rest for yourself, it also gives you a chance to manage your employers’ expectations of what can reasonably be done during a work week, allowing them to better know when you are struggling and be able to lighten your load.
Focus on your personal finance
Moreover, setting boundaries can also allow you to free up mental bandwidth to focus on other personal goals such as your personal finances. Prioritising one’s own personal finance goals instead of solely focusing on climbing the corporate ladder creates a safety blanket, allowing you to be less dependent on your job for financial security. It gives you a personal failsafe should the unwelcomed circumstance where you lose your job arise. It can help alleviate your anxieties around work, which would overall be more beneficial for your mental health.
Focusing on your personal finance could be done through a myriad of ways. You could take the extra time outside of work to learn a new skill such as how to invest your money into stocks and bonds, or take a more conservative approach such as how to grow your wealth through financial tools such as endowment and insurance saving plans. Finding ways to make your money work for you could allow you to better enjoy your life outside of work. It is comforting knowing that you have a strong grasp of your personal finances and that your money is working for you in the background.
Develop a Side Hustle
Alternatively, you can use the extra time to develop a side hustle. With the rising cost of living, a side hustle could become an additional source of income to alleviate some of that burden. As your side hustle could potentially be different from your day job, it could still help to prevent burnout by allowing your mind to take a break from your job to focus on a different task. Finding a fun gig that you enjoy and can monetise might keep you inspired and break up the monotony of your daily work. Read more about potential side hustles here.
However, it is important to strike a balance when implementing quiet quitting. Some quiet quitters have noticed that taking a more disengaged approach in their work has resulted in reduced motivation. By adopting the idea that you are replaceable to your employer and hence should not go above and beyond could potentially be harmful for your morale in the workplace as it gives you a lesser sense of purpose. Hence, even if you choose to adopt elements of quiet quitting, it is important to do so with a positive frame of mind. Framing your mindset to focus on taking time for your personal well-being will allow for a more pleasant and productive work experience.