In recent times, the concept of “quiet quitting” gained significant attention, especially on social media platforms like TikTok. The idea revolves around employees choosing not to invest excessive effort into their work and rejecting the notion of overcommitment to their jobs. While some perceived it as a new trend, data shows that a considerable portion of the American workforce has long been disengaged at work, with numbers ranging from 13% to 20% since employee engagement surveys began in 2000.
The emergence of quiet quitting coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, which compelled many individuals to reevaluate their work-life balance and priorities. The pandemic-induced changes allowed employees to reflect on whether they had been putting work above personal well-being, family, and friends. As a result, the ethos of quiet quitting became a manifestation of the desire for a healthier, more balanced approach to work.
The impact of the pandemic on the workforce prompted organizations and experts to recognize the significance of addressing employee well-being. The US surgeon general’s office acknowledged the need for change and issued guidance for employers, urging them to listen to their workers, increase pay, and establish boundaries for communication outside of work hours.
Experts attribute the rise of quiet quitting to a decline in intrinsic motivation at work, partly driven by ongoing burnout and the erosion of job security and autonomy over the years. The modern workplace, with its emphasis on profit and productivity, has often treated employees like commodities, leading to increased stress and workplace dissatisfaction.
Before the pandemic, workplace stress, job insecurity, and toxic cultures were already contributing to approximately 120,000 deaths and $190 billion in healthcare expenses annually. The pandemic itself only added to the mental and physical challenges faced by employees, making remote work a welcome respite for some individuals.
Quiet quitting has also been seen as part of a broader phenomenon called the “Great Resignation,” where a significant number of workers have left their jobs to seek better opportunities, improved pay, and more respectful treatment. The pandemic acted as a catalyst for people to rethink their relationship with work, prompting many to embark on a journey of self-discovery and reevaluation of their career choices.
The personal experience of “Ken,” a high school teacher from Iowa, exemplifies the impact of quiet quitting. After experiencing the benefits of remote work during the pandemic, he decided to prioritize his personal life over excessive job demands. Like many educators, he faced burnout due to the multitude of roles expected of him but with inadequate compensation.
The trend of quiet quitting may have subsided, but its essence is likely to persist. The evolving work environment demands a reimagining of the employer-employee relationship, with an emphasis on striking a balance between professional aspirations and personal well-being. As society continues to adapt to the changes brought about by the pandemic, the relationship between individuals and work will undoubtedly continue to evolve organically.