Jobs and the Future of Work

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting doesn’t mean actually quitting your job. It just means doing what’s required and then getting on with your life – having more work-life balance.

Quiet quitting doesn’t mean actually quitting your job. It just means doing what’s required and then getting on with your life – having more work-life balance. Image: Unsplash/Yasmina H

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Quiet quitting is the art of not taking work too seriously, mostly used by Gen Z workers who have helped the term go viral on TikTok.
  • COVID-19 has fuelled stress, burnout and falling engagement amongst workers, studies show.
  • Remote working has shown us there are different ways of working that also allow us to enjoy our passions or take time out.

Quiet quitting is taking over TikTok, and the video-sharing app is ablaze with the term.

It’s throwing new light on the world of work for young professionals and has opened up a whole new debate about how we relate to our jobs.

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting doesn’t mean actually quitting your job. It just means doing what’s required and then getting on with your life – having more work-life balance.

“You're still performing your duties but you're no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life,” says Zaid Khan, a 24-year-old software engineer and musician in New York whose quiet quitting video has gone viral on TikTok.

The term may be associated with younger workers, but was apparently first used back in March by an American Gen-Xer, reports the LA Times.

A TikTok from zaidleppelin about quiet quitting
In this TikTok, Zaidleppelin discusses what quiet quitting is Image: TikTok/zaidleppelin

Is quiet quitting just a social media trend?

The hashtag #QuietQuitting has now racked up more than 17 million views on TikTok. Press articles worldwide have used the term and the noise has spread to Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

Adult Gen Zers are big influencers on social media and about 60% say they post content they hope will change the world, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer.

Those aged 18-26 are the most worried about security, health, finances, social connections and keeping up with change, the Edelman survey of 36,000 people found.

But workforce studies on the changing world of work support the rise of quiet quitting – and suggest it’s more than just a social media hashtag.

Quiet quitting is a way of dealing with burnout, an organizational behaviour expert tells GQ magazine.
Quiet quitting is a way of dealing with burnout, an organizational behaviour expert tells GQ magazine. Image: 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer

So why is quiet quitting happening?

Quiet quitting is a way of dealing with burnout, an organizational behaviour expert tells GQ magazine.

Burnout is a big risk in the workplace, especially amongst younger Gen Z professionals aged in their 20s, research shows. A survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft showed 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting their job.

In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks “youth disillusionment” as eighth of 10 immediate risks. Findings include deteriorating mental health since the start of the pandemic, leaving 80% of young people worldwide vulnerable to depression, anxiety and disappointment.

Is COVID-19 behind quiet quitting, then?

COVID-19 has changed the world of work – and how seriously we take it.

Twenty-something Gen Z workers, in particular, may have joined the world of work during the pandemic “with all of its dislocating effects” – especially remote working – notes The Wall Street Journal in an article on quiet quitting.

This generation have also come of age amidst rising activism fuelled by “the pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, racial inequities, the climate crisis, the US epidemic of gun violence and the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” the 2022 Edelman report says.

Is it about having more variety in their lives?

To some extent, yes – more people are quitting 9 to 5 jobs to start their own businesses or try non-traditional work like temporary, gig or part-time roles, a recent McKinsey survey found.

It also shows some are quitting to take a break or care for family, as remote working has removed boundaries for working or living overseas.

Gen Z workers aged 18-24 years most value flexibility and meaningful work, while Millennials and Gen Xers aged between about 25 and 45 years are largely the ones trying self-employment and new types of work, McKinsey found.

Experts say the ‘passion economy’ – where people do more of what they love – has heralded a new era of side hustles, in everything from craft to campaigning.

Does quiet quitting just affect young people?

Workforce data from organizations including McKinsey & Company suggests 40% of the global workforce are looking to quit their jobs in the next three to six months.

“The average person will spend 90,000 hours at work over a lifetime, so it’s no surprise that job satisfaction, or dissatisfaction, can significantly affect your life,” McKinsey says.

The 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work.

“Living for the weekend”, “watching the clock tick” and “work is just a paycheck” are the mantras of most global workers, Gallup says.

In his TikTok post on quiet quitting, Khan stresses that work is not your life and concludes “your worth as a person is not defined by your labour”.

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