Is Quiet Quitting Really the Answer to Work-Life Balance?

Two mental health experts weigh in on the trend that's all over TikTok.

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Whether you find yourself staying late at the office or going the extra mile for a presentation, you've likely felt the need to work beyond what's listed in your job description from time to time. That's not always a bad thing, but there comes a time when going above and beyond is more draining than rewarding. If that's the case, you may find yourself drawn to a trend currently circulating on TikTok called "quiet quitting." The term refers to doing the bare minimum at work (aka what's actually in your job description), rather than taking on more responsibilities and putting in more time without getting a promotion or raise.

Videos tagged with the hashtag #quietquitting have garnered more than 39 million collective views and counting. Users are making videos about how they are starting to actually "act their wage" instead of doing extra work with nothing to show for it. Some argue that quiet quitting is just how people who prioritize work-life-balance approach their jobs, but others suggest there's more to it. "We all knew the whole time what we were doing was unsustainable...People have realized that they are giving and giving and giving and not getting in return, and it's not going to work forever," says one TikTok user.

All this comes after more than two years of workers living through the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused some people to rethink how they approach work-life-balance. The trend has bubbled up during a time when occupational burnout is at an all time high and people are actually quitting jobs in record numbers as part of the "Great Resignation." With this in mind, quiet quitting, which involves setting work boundaries regardless of how you're perceived by colleagues, seems like it could be good for many people's mental health. However, it's also important to note that the ability to do the bare minimum at work is typically a privilege only available to those working in corporate positions, rather than those who work as doctors, nurses, and teachers, points out another TikTok user.

To help put the trend into perspective, Kristen Casey, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist, and Nina Vasan, M.D., a psychiatrist and the chief medical officer at Real, unpack whether or not quiet quitting is actually beneficial for mental health and if it can help prevent burnout at work.

Is "quiet quitting" beneficial for mental health?

For some people, actually quitting a stressful job can cause more problems than staying. So, quiet quitting may work as a temporary strategy until you figure out what work-life boundaries you need to set and what that work-life balance looks like for you, according to Casey. "It's an option for people who are considering quitting their jobs," she says. "It's almost like a test before leaving, or a test to see if you can regain control of your life outside of work," she adds.

Taking a step back at work may also help you avoid burnout. "[Quiet quitting] helps you establish boundaries for your work and your job to ensure that you aren't experiencing burnout," explains Casey. "Boundaries help you maintain better control over your life, and this may reduce stress, depression, and anxiety," she adds.

Additionally, meeting your job description without taking on extra work could help you figure out who you are outside of work. In this way, quiet quitting can help foster a better sense of self, say experts. "People who feel overextended at work may not have the mental energy to engage with fulfilling activities after work," explains Casey. "They might not show up to their kids' soccer game. They might say 'no' to plans with friends. They might sit in front of the TV rather than having invigorating conversations with their spouse." When people don't have a proper balance between their work and personal lives, they "may become a shell of a person," adds Casey.

Can "quiet quitting" help promote work life balance?

Whether or not quit quitting can actually help promote work-life balance depends on the individual and the effort put into the process of creating necessary work boundaries. Intentionality is key here, according to Vasan. "This includes taking a look across both your work and personal life and assessing how you spend your time and why," she says. "Use this opportunity to examine which activities help you disconnect."

Finding that proverbial "balance" comes down to actually using newfound time gained from not working more than necessary in a way that's more beneficial for your mental and physical health. But this doesn't happen overnight and fostering a better work-life balance requires consistent effort, says Vasan. "This is also an ongoing process," she explains. "Very few people are able to quickly achieve an ideal work-life balance overnight. It requires presence and ongoing attention to finding balance."

The Bottom Line

Both Casey and Vasan agree that quiet quitting is one strategy that can be used as a placeholder while trying to implement work-life boundaries, but it's not a permanent solution if you're truly unhappy at work. It's also not an option for everyone, as some people, such as health care workers and teachers, aren't likely able to put in the bare minimum effort at work in the name of balance.

"Quiet quitting is unlikely to be a sustainable solution and should be viewed more as a temporary solution — a band-aid if you will," says Vasan. "Band aids are great and helpful but are something you only use for a short period of time. I say this because it is important to think about the ways in which you need to address the formal changes you want to make when it comes to your work-life balance and how you express that to your co-workers and employers," she explains. "Communication is essential, especially in the workplace."

Talking about your frustrations with your boss may be more productive that quietly reducing your efforts, but Casey acknowledges that's not always an option. "If your boss doesn't take well to this conversation or it is unsafe to have this conversation, you may think about other career choices or job options," she says. "If they aren't willing to work with you, it may be time to consider another position. Otherwise, nothing will change and you will be in the same situation for a while."

So, the quiet quitting mentality may help you get through difficult times at work, but it's likely a temporary solution to a larger problem. Addressing the issue head on may be more beneficial for your mental health in the long run, according to experts.

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