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Is "Quiet Quitting" Actually Good for Your Mental Health?

A closer look at the trend's upsides and downsides.

Key points

  • Quiet quitting doesn't have a standard definition. It loosely means doing only what's required of you at work without going extra miles.
  • Boundary setting is a big part of quiet quitting, but you can set boundaries without "phoning it in."
  • Quiet quitting's proponents claim that its upsides include less stress due to investing less of yourself in your job.
  • Since we care less about things we don't put much effort into, we risk feeling unsatisfied with jobs we don't invest ourselves in.

The term “quiet quitting” emerged early in 2022 on social media to describe the phenomenon of workers refusing to go above and beyond at their jobs and instead simply meeting those jobs’ basic requirements. Typically these workers hailed from fields known for under-compensating extra employee efforts and encouraging hustle cultures that left little time for finding meaning, purpose, or cultivating relationships outside of work. But as quiet quitting became increasingly popular, employees from practically every profession started taking notice—and wondering whether they should quietly quit, too.

Is quiet quitting a good idea? And what might its impacts be on workers’ mental health? Below is a closer look at what quiet quitting entails and how it might affect those who embrace its growing popularity.

Photo courtesy of cottonbro via Pexels
Source: Photo courtesy of cottonbro via Pexels

What Quiet Quitting Really Means

Since it’s still such a new term, quiet quitting doesn’t yet have a standardized definition. But here’s how it’s being described on the Internet: Clocking in, completing the tasks assigned to you, and clocking out. That’s it. No taking on extra tasks beyond your job description—unless you’re compensated for doing so. Skeptics have termed this doing the bare minimum or phoning it in. Quiet quitting proponents counter that it’s actually just doing your job and setting firmer boundaries at work.

Why Employees Are Quietly Quitting

Many employees are fed up with not receiving wage increases or promotions congruent with the amount of effort they’re putting into their work. Others are tired of not having enough time and energy for non-work endeavors, like family, friends, hobbies, and other activities that improve their wellbeing. Many quiet quitters have personally experienced (or witnessed in others) the repercussions of skimping on sleep, exercise, and quality time with loved ones in order to “get ahead” at a job and they’re refusing to incur any further damages to their physical and mental health by repeatedly pushing themselves too hard.

Rather than putting in their resignation, though, these workers are standing up for their rights, their physical health, and their sanity by saying, “I’m not going to compromise my wellbeing by overextending myself—especially not without a significant pay raise or increased time off.” Or more simply, “I just want to do my job without being completely exhausted by it.”

The Upsides of Quiet Quitting

A substantial majority of workers in America (up to 84% according to one Deloitte survey) say they’ve experienced job-related burnout—that is: an emotional and/or physical exhaustion (often coupled with a loss of, or significant reduction in, motivation) brought about by prolonged work stress. Many quiet quitters claim that forgoing the extra mile(s) at their jobs is a means of offsetting or managing this burnout, since doing only what’s required is thought to lower the pressure to perform and prevent workers from taking it personally when they don’t get promoted or don’t get a raise.

Photo courtesy of Tim Gouw via Pexels
Source: Photo courtesy of Tim Gouw via Pexels

Effectively setting boundaries at work—think: actually taking a lunch break or declining extra asks from higher ups and co-workers that exceed your job’s defined roles and responsibilities—is proven to help boost worker wellbeing and prevent burnout. Especially when it comes to safeguarding the distinction between work and non-work time. Not answering work emails, calls, or texts after a certain hour and not checking work messages during vacations and sick days are two very important strategies to help uphold this latter boundary. Protecting one’s wellbeing in this manner is a great way to balance the concerns of one’s work life with one’s non-work life and health, and if this is what quiet quitting entails, the trend certainly comes with benefits.

The Downsides of Quiet Quitting

Research has shown that when we put more effort into an endeavor, we value that endeavor more. Likewise, the more personal energy workers invest in their jobs and the more engaged they feel on those jobs, the more satisfaction they’ve been found to derive from them. Reducing your input at work (“phoning it in,” so to speak) could sap you of that crucial sense of engagement and purpose that contributes to job satisfaction—a measure which itself has been shown to positively impact our physical and mental wellbeing. Less effort, less engagement, and lower job satisfaction could leave some workers feeling like the majority of their days are futile, meaningless, and boring. These sentiments are known to negatively impact mental health and can contribute to depression, so it’s important to keep a pulse on how any changes in your efforts at work may be affecting your mental health.

Abruptly dialing back the effort you put into your work may also lead you to feel guilty about saying more “no’s” to coworkers or higher-ups, and this may increase your stress. Additionally, those whom you work with or for may not respond positively to changes in your professional behavior, and these reactions may make you feel uncomfortable on the job, increase your concern about being passed over for a promotion, or render you anxious about being fired.

The Takeaway

All of these factors—the potential upsides and downsides of quiet quitting—are worth taking into account if you’re wondering whether quiet quitting is right for you. Regardless of your plans to quietly quit (or not), seeking support from a mental health professional around the stress you’re experiencing at work can help you gain insight into its sources and develop strategies to protect yourself from experiencing burnout. Talking through what’s led you to consider quiet quitting can also help you figure out where you may benefit from putting boundaries in place and how best to assert them—not just at your job but outside of work as well.

More from Katherine Cullen MFA, LCSW
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