“Quiet Quitting” is Just Good Boundaries
I’ve had a number of conversations over the last week about one specific topic: Quiet Quitting. Quiet Quitting is when an employee refuses to accept and engage in the idea that work has to take over your life and that you should be going above and beyond in your role (The Guardian). Between this and the Great Resignation, we’re starting to see movement towards a work culture that has more of a focus on work-life balance.
During the height of COVID-19, work-life balance was disrupted in relation to role conflict at work, insufficient pay, irregular working hours (Enli-Tuncay, 2020) and a host of other reasons. Like many folks, my full-time job became remote, and I found myself working long hours, scheduling back-to-back meetings, and constantly being on-call for questions and to put out fires. I've worked weekends, deep into the night, early in the morning, and straight through lunch. I'm only contracted to work a 40-hr week. The problem with working from home and not having strong boundaries is that you become way more accessible to other people. Your time no longer belongs to you but belongs to anyone who needs it.
And you know what that leads to? Burnout.
Burnout is when you begin to experience emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion related to consistent stress and it's often associated with work. Burnout can arise when we (as part of work-culture) experience unhealthy boundaries that prevent us from saying no, closing the computer at 5pm, and refusing to work on our days off. We’re scared of not getting the work done, of others getting ahead of us, of disappointing our bosses, or getting fired.
Enter, “Quiet Quitting.”
The phrase "quiet quitting" sounds like people have quietly given up on something. But that's not actually what it is. Quiet quitting is just folks just realizing that boundaries with work are unhealthy and need to change. Boundaries with work are difficult but especially so when your job is related to the well-being of others. Think about healthcare and behavioral healthcare. Folks who work in these fields are often expected to go above and beyond what their job description calls for which is probably why the turnover rate can be between 40%-70%.
Quiet quitting means circling back to your job description and then sticking to it. We've created this work culture where we are expected to do more than we're contracted and put in extra effort...but then, the company doesn't have to compensate us for that because it's...voluntary extra work? Honestly, it's the weirdest double standard that it's perfectly normal for an organization to only pay you for the time and tasks that they contracted but it's wildly taboo for people to only give the time and tasks they were contracted to do.
We have to change this.
People are tired of putting their jobs before the rest of their lives. Jobs were never supposed to be the sole focus of our lives. We need to have time to ourselves, for our families and friends, to engage in the hobbies that bring us joy, and to pursue callings that we’re passionate about. Let’s start setting better boundaries at work so that we can enjoy the lives that we have been given:
Improve your Work Boundaries
Identify your current boundaries: You have personal and work-related boundaries. Take a look at where your boundaries currently are. Identify which of these boundaries you want to keep and which you’d like to change.
Examine your work schedule: Put some space between meetings and identify “protected time” that’s blocked off. This protected time can act as a buffer for meetings, an actual lunch time where you don’t work, or time where you’re working on a project and shouldn’t be disturbed.
Learn to Delegate: If you’re a supervisor/manager, start delegating tasks and meetings to members of your team. You don't need to attend everything.
If you can’t do it, tell them what you can do instead: Start using phrases like, “I can’t take on this project because I am at capacity. I can take a look at this project in (enter reasonable time in the future).” You’re giving them a no but also telling them what you can do.
Have clear contact hours: Tell people what your hours of contact are and stick to them. This includes how you would like to be contacted (i.e., work phone, cell phone, email, or text). I've even put my start and end time on my calendar so people know I'm not available.
Get comfortable with saying, “No”: This is probably the hardest task. People may try to push the boundaries, but you have to stand firm with your, ‘no.’
There’s nothing wrong with engaging in, “quiet quitting” (which I think should have a different name). Figure out what’s important to you and build your boundaries around that. Jobs are important, but it’s important to have a life outside of it.
You don’t always have to give a job 150%.
Ashtivker, M.R. (2022). How to Reverse the ‘great resignation’- Opinion. The Jerusalem Post. Article
Enli-Tuncay, F., Koyuncu, E., & Ozel, S. (2020). A review of protective and risk factors affecting psychosocial health of healthcare workers in pandemics. Ankara Med Journal, 20(2), pp 488–501. Article
Burnout. Psychology Today, Workaholic. Article
Tapper, J. (2022). Quiet quitting: Why doing the bare minimum at work has gone global. The Observer, Work & Careers. Article