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Corporate Wellbeing Employee Engagement Employee Experience Employee Wellbeing Best Practices

Quiet Quitting: What This Trend is Teaching Us About the Wellbeing Emergency

Young professionals are prioritizing work-life balance more than ever, and leaders need to take note 

Videos about the phrase “quiet quitting” are generating millions of views on TikTok as young professionals reject the idea of going above and beyond in their careers, using the hashtag to emote. 

Quiet quitting isn’t about leaving your company or avoiding work. Instead, it is about setting firm boundaries to pursue a meaningful life outside of work and working hard to regain or retain healthy work-life integration, all while staying at their current jobs.

Why is quiet quitting resonating with employees? 

The data on employee wellbeing, engagement, and work-life integration has never been more straightforward for employers – and the TL;DR is: it’s not going well. Even with all metrics indicating immediate meltdown/code red, organizations are focused on hitting short-term financial targets, which places the very thing they are trying to control – revenues – in a precarious position due to employees’ expectations. 

Work is both the barrier and the catalyst to achieving wellbeing. A Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence survey found that employees and the C-Suite agree on one thing: improving their wellbeing is more important than advancing their career. And, 74% of bosses reported they’re “facing obstacles when it comes to achieving their wellbeing goals – and these are largely tied to their job.” 

Employees are using quiet quitting to describe this data in their own words: I see value in my job. Still, I need to drop the undue stress and informally renegotiate my standards for a healthier, happier state of work and wellbeing. 

Why is this happening now? How has work changed?

Everything and nothing has changed at the same time. 

The pandemic has changed a lot about how work gets done, but the issue of burnout and work-driven stress is not new as-of COVID-19. It’s been here all along and has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. In this 2019 article from Harvard Business Review, “Burnout is About Your Workplace, Not Your People,” Jennifer Moss states, “we tend to think of burnout as an individual problem….but the evidence is mounting that applying personal, band-aid solutions to an epic and rapidly evolving workplace phenomenon may be harming, not helping the battle.” 

Pre-COVID, employees were impacted severely by work-driven anxiety. The 2019 Mind the Workplace survey from Mental Health America indicated that 66% of employees reported that workplace issues negatively affect their sleep. Half of the respondents engage in unhealthy behaviors to cope with workplace stress. And 69% said it was safer to remain silent about workplace stress. 

Disconnection and not addressing issues was an issue even before remote work became commonplace. O.C. Tanner’s 2018 Global Culture Report quoted a manufacturing company VP who said, “There are more opportunities for people to hide behind the technology – whether it’s text, instant messaging, Skype, or email – so that if there is some type of issue that never gets resolved, it’s left to fester.” 

And, the desire for a real work-life balance isn’t a new concept either. In 2018, Forbes published a leadership article on The Evolving Definition of Work-Life Balance. Former contributor Alan Kohll detailed how work-life balance helps reduce stress and prevent burnout in the workplace and why millennials were more interested in finding a career path that will support their lifestyle, which means life outside of work. 

Is Quiet Quitting the Solution to Our Wellbeing State of Emergency? 

Work-related stress can be a significant health and safety issue. Numerous studies show that a stressed employee is at more risk of depression, anxiety, sleep difficulties, chronic conditions, and will have reduced productivity and increased levels of absenteeism. It’s fair to say that creating healthy boundaries to live life is an ideal state. 

Organizations should view whole-person wellbeing the same way they approach a security breach. You would do everything in your power to quickly fix it, making flaws impenetrable to ensure it didn’t happen again and maintain your network’s wellbeing. Why is the wellbeing of your employees any different? 

If quiet quitting and the Great Resignation indicate how things will continue to progress, the takeaway is direct – we are in a wellbeing state of emergency. Regardless of where you are on the corporate ladder, people need support. We’ll repeat it – work is both a barrier and a catalyst for wellbeing. 

Quiet quitting may be an interim solution to help employees establish their wellbeing, but it may not be enough. The stress is still there. Employees and managers need to have an open and honest conversation about what is being experienced for organizations to address situations formally. Building psychological safety in the workplace is key to having these critical conversations. 

Today you will make 2,000 choices an HOUR. Choosing to place the wellbeing of your employees first is the one choice you can make today to close the gap. 

Additional Resources 

Spotlight Report: Save the C-Suite – The Wellbeing Support Your Peers Need Right Now 

Light Paper: Employee Wellbeing and Your Company Bottom Line 

Quick Read: Calm the Chaos – 5 Ways to Boost Employee Retention & Engagement