Could Quiet Quitting be the solution to employee burnout?

As we continue to emerge out of the pandemic Australian workers are beginning to feel the impact of labour shortages and the blurring of lines between work and home lives that a hybrid working model brings. The inevitable outcome of this ever evolving working model is increasing rates of stress and burnout.

Enter the concept of Quiet Quitting – where there is no resignation letter submitted, no foot stomping or temper tantrums – just adequate performance.   

That doesn’t sound that bad, does it?

What is Quiet Quitting?

According to the Urban Dictionary* Quiet Quitting is “when physically, you still turn up to work but mentally, you check out and do the absolute bare minimum to get by.”

Recently, TikTokker @zkchillin explained the concept as when you still perform your duties at work, but you don’t subscribe to the “hustle culture” – meaning that you see your worth as defined by more than just your job.

It’s not a new concept; the term ‘work/life balance’ was first coined in the 80’s when big hair and shoulder pads were the height of fashion, and even Dolly Parton knew the work-day was ‘hustlin time’ and a place that was ‘all taking and no giving’.

How does it manifest

It might be a strong shift in attitude and actions or a subtle one. On one end of the scale, it might mean getting to work right on time, doing just enough not to get fired and heading out right on time. So, you are physically there but you have mentally checked out.

It may mean choosing to only take on duties or projects that specifically fall within your job description and instituting a strict adherence to answering work calls or emails only during work hours.

It goes without saying that there is little chance you will be walking away with Employee of the Month anytime soon, but you may find that with a reduced mental load your outlook has brightened.

In a moderate sense, it may manifest as a more understated change. Perhaps you are not allowing yourself to be pulled into office drama or making sure you take that one-hour lunch break without feeling guilty.

The truth is, in one way or another, you might be doing it already. Each of us know our own limits and are pretty good at knowing when we are feeling under pressure, the issue at hand is how you manage that pressure and whether it is a healthy choice for you. 


Why are we talking about this now?

I’m sure you can’t have missed all the ‘we’re hiring’ signs popping up in shop windows everywhere – which indicatives labour shortages. The consequence of this is an increase in workload for existing staff. When you combine this with stagnant wages – there is bound to be a discontent.

In hindsight, we can think of the Great Resignation as phase one of labour market movements resulting from the pandemic. With a reduced number of skilled workers available and a glut of vacancies on the table, there was ample choice and no reason not to make demands. You could choose the roles you wanted, and if you didn’t like it… you could just leave. And many did!

As with anything trending, things settle down in time, and we have now moved into a second phase. This phase is about people who either choose not to or simply can’t leave their job and have decided to employ the only tool at their disposal – their effort.

After spending so much time at home during the pandemic, people started to see that it didn’t matter how long you put into your job; when the chips were down, everyone is expendable.  Watching colleagues be furloughed or outright let go, even if they worked hard or had long tenure, can create disillusionment.

Is it the right approach?

Whether or not you may consider this approach depends on many things, such as your workload, mental health, pressure longevity and progression opportunities. However, it’s fair to says it is not an ideal approach to use for the long term.

Instead, it may be something to employ as an interim solution if you need to create some mental space while you work out the best next step (providing you aren’t negligent in your duties).

Whilst quiet quitting is undoubtably a way of deprioritising your job and alleviating symptoms associated with stress, it may not be enough. If you are overworked, underpaid and feeling fatigued, separating yourself from the situation may be the only way to heal if you are truly burnt out.

What does it mean for the employer?

Work-related stress can be a significant health and safety issue. A stressed employee is more at risk of depression, anxiety, and sleep difficulties and will have reduced productivity and increased levels of absenteeism**.

Is it reasonable to ask for more if someone has a strong work ethic and is still channelling their energy into quality output during the work day? If on the other hand, there is a demonstrative drop in productivity below acceptable standards then there may be cause for concern.

What can you do?

Either way, finding the right balance will be a personal journey for everyone, employees and employers alike, but it’s safe to say that eliminating excessive workload will go a long way to helping ease pressure on at work.

If you are an employee and need to dial down your workload, an open and honest conversation with your manager may be the first step to take before you commit to a quiet quitting. And if you are an employer, ask yourself if you are in a position to implement workload management solutions in any aspect of your business.

For a business, talent retention and recruitment come with a hefty cost. If you want to hear more on how you can free up cash flow by eliminating debtors and getting paid faster, talk to a QuickFee representative. To enquire on how QuickFee can help you streamline your payments and invoicing process, contact our team today on 02 8090 7700.