What Is Quiet Quitting?

It’s been hot in the headlines and dominating social media scrolls over the past few weeks—quiet quitting. A viral TikTok video popularized the concept in July, inspiring many workers to share their opinions and experiences.

According to an NPR article on the subject, “Quiet quitting doesn’t actually involve quitting. Instead, it’s a response to hustle culture and burnout; employees are “quitting” going above and beyond and declining to do tasks they are not being paid for.”

A new saying related to quiet quitting is “act your wage.” Workers are making deliberate choices to avoid overextending themselves physically, mentally and emotionally at their jobs. It’s shutting down at 5:00 p.m., only doing assigned tasks, and not letting their job take over their life.

From a recent Wall Street Journal podcast:

Gen Z and younger workers are reporting that they feel less like their work has purpose. Without that connection between what you’re doing and why it matters, it might be a bit easier to dial back your own engagement. . . . [This generation has also] had very little workplace experience outside the pandemic. COVID, for so many workers and employees, totally broke down barriers between work and life, and some people are trying to build those barriers back up, basically.

. . . [In our uncertain economy,] there could be a risk of layoff or stagnation in your career if you’re not distinguishing yourself as the person who’s always on, or who’s raising your hand for these stretch assignments. That said though, for some workers, being burned out isn’t a clear path to getting a razor promotion either.

What Can Employers Do?

While many have varying thoughts on quiet quitting, this trend is an important reminder for workplaces to take a temperature reading of current staff needs and expectations. By listening to employees, offering benefits that better promote work-life balance and helping employees establish boundaries, employers can work to prevent burnout and better support their organizations. Here are a few ideas for employers:

  1. Administer a quick anonymous survey or focus group to employees about workload, stress levels, work-life balance and other needs
  2. More than 88% of organizations believe that workers are more stressed than they were two years ago, according to an International Foundation survey report, Mental Health and Substance Use Disorder Benefits. The report offers a few ideas on how employers can help, including fostering resiliency skills and offering EAP services for stressed workers.
  3. Put work-life balance benefits on the front burner. A major offering is flexible work arrangements, with 64% of workplaces providing this option to employees. Employers should also think about caregiving support, flexibility in leave options, flexible workhours, benefits that resonate depending on life event and employee-pay-all voluntary benefits. 

[Related: Building (or Reevaluating) a Benefits Package for Today’s and Tomorrow’s Workforce]

4. Encourage managers to work with their employees to establish expectations and set boundaries.

5. Actually pay employees for extra work they are doing, as the NPR article suggests.

Foundation members have access to Foundation Community, where they can talk with other members about issues bubbling up, like quiet quitting. This is a great platform to use for sharing ideas, sample survey questions, etc. Give it a try or comment below.

Anne Patterson
Associate Director of PR & Communications

The Latest from Word on Benefits:

Anne Patterson

Marketing Communications Manager

Favorite Foundation Product: Foundation Community. It’s like LinkedIn but only for Foundation members. They can post questions, share best practices, etcall with fellow members who also live and breathe employee benefits.

Benefits-related Topics That Interest Her Most: Workplace wellness (especially mental health), diversity, equity and inclusion, behavioral decision making, family-friendly benefits, payroll audits.

Personal Insight: When she’s not busy analyzing the inner workings of her toddler’s brain (does anyone actually know?!), Anne finds joy in home renovation and décor, haiku writing, watching Jeopardy, creating charcuterie boards, and bicycling.

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