5 Reasons Why Quiet Quitting Is Great for Your Mental Health
The psychology behind a new controversial workplace practice.
Posted August 22, 2022 | Reviewed by Tyler Woods
- "Quiet quitting" is a recent workplace phenomenon where employees are rejecting the idea of going “above and beyond” at work.
- Despite how it sounds, "quiet quitting" is better defined as setting healthy boundaries to establish work-life balance.
- The practice of "quiet quitting" overlaps with many common strategies used to improve mental health.
“Quiet quitting” is a workplace phenomenon that’s been sweeping through mainstream and social media after a recent TikTok video went viral.
But what is quiet quitting, and why could it be great for your mental health?
Contrary to how it sounds, quiet quitting doesn’t mean slacking off, sabotaging, or outright quitting your job. It means rejecting the idea you have to go “above and beyond” at work. It means coming in, doing the job you’re paid to do, then going home and living your life.
Despite employment “experts” warning people of the risks of quiet quitting (like being passed over for promotions or getting laid off first), it’s important to remember the source of this advice—employers and their spokespeople. In reality, quiet quitting could be just what the proverbial doctor ordered—for your mental health.
Here are five reasons why:
1. It’s a salve for burnout.
Burnout, also sometimes called moral injury, frequently results from doing work that doesn’t align with our values or when we feel hamstrung from making a meaningful impact. But the predominant script for decades has been, “Well that’s just how work is. You’re not supposed to enjoy it. That’s why it’s called work—not fun.”
So for generations, we’ve been told trying harder, sacrificing our mental and physical health—and time with our family—will translate into a promotion or, at least, job security.
But it doesn’t. Not anymore. Like the American Dream of having 2.5 kids and being able to afford a four-bedroom house with a white picket fence in a nice neighborhood on a single salary, it’s a relic of a bygone era.
Quiet quitting helps you strategically disengage from burnout, because it keeps you from over-extending yourself and sacrificing your well-being.
2. It helps set healthy boundaries.
Ultimately, quiet quitting just means setting healthy boundaries.
The way we protect our priorities and create a work-life balance is to set healthy boundaries—to say, “Hey, this is where I draw the line. Here’s what’s acceptable and here’s what’s unacceptable if you want me on board.”
Setting healthy boundaries for a better work-life balance may mean the following:
- Not taking work home with you.
- Not checking work messages outside of work hours.
- Not attending nonrequired work events (like bowling night).
- Not working more than the number of hours you were hired to work.
Setting boundaries at work makes it easier to pursue side hustles or hobbies, spend more time with loved ones, and protect our mental and physical health.
3. It builds a sense of control.
When you believe you have agency over your life, you have what’s called an internal locus of control. When you believe you can’t influence what happens to you—that outside forces and random chance are mostly responsible for how your life turns out—you have an external locus of control.
Focusing on things outside of your control increases stress, frustration, and feelings of helplessness. When you believe you have no control at work, and every day makes you feel like Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day, it’s easy to develop a sense of powerlessness—a.k.a., an external locus of control.
Quiet quitting is a strategy to exert your power over what’s within your control by arriving on time, doing your job, then clocking out to go home and fill your life with meaningful connections and activities.
Because the more you focus on what’s within your control, the more empowered you’ll feel and the stronger your internal locus of control will be.
4. It helps prioritize what matters.
Between the “Great Resignation,” losing loved ones to COVID-19, and uncertainty about the future brought on by world events over the past couple of years, many of us have shifted our priorities.
We’ve had to take a hard look at what matters, what doesn’t, and what we want out of life.
Consider the Stoic concept of memento mori—Latin for “remember you will die.” It’s not meant to be depressing. It’s meant to remind us to use our mortality as a motivator to live fully. But you can take it a step further to mean “remember it will end.”
Your kids won’t be kids forever—they’ll grow up and move away to start their own lives. One day, you won’t be able to visit your parents or grandparents because they’ll be gone. Or think about the things you daydream about like writing that book, learning a language, or traveling abroad.
You still have time today. But one day, you won’t. Quiet quitting can help you make more time for what matters now while you still have time to enjoy it.
5. It signals a change in the zeitgeist.
Quiet quitting is currently talked about as a Gen Z–focused trend, but I argue that that's just the latest example of older generations infantilizing younger ones, which undermines the real issue—being overworked, underpaid, and underappreciated.
According to a recent Bankrate survey, 55 percent of Americans felt underpaid, and 51 percent reported being likely to seek a new job within the next 12 months. Millennials and Gen Z grew up watching as older generations sacrificed everything to have job security and move up the corporate ladder. But all they got was a pizza party and a 3 percent raise.
Quiet quitting represents a paradigm shift—that there’s more to life than work. It’s about being unwilling to sacrifice everything you care about for a job that doesn’t define you, doesn’t enrich you, and is ultimately insignificant relative to what truly matters in life—living.
If you love your job or see yourself doing it with energy and passion until your dying (or at least retirement) day, then by all means—give it your all.
If, however, your job is a stepping stone or purely a way to earn enough money to pay the bills, and you’re unwilling to sacrifice your well-being for it—quiet quitting is a solid adaptive coping strategy to set healthy boundaries.
It’s not entitlement. It’s not laziness. It’s setting healthy boundaries and doing the job you’re paid to do, then spending the rest of your time living your life.
Because no one on their deathbed looks back and wishes they’d spent more time at work.
LinkedIn image: fizkes/Shutterstock
Special thanks to Amanda Natividad for feedback on an early draft of this article.