Is quiet quitting your job for mental health the right choice?

In the post-pandemic world, quiet quitting has emerged as a new buzzword to describe working professionals who just do what is required of them. It doesn’t mean quitting your job but just doing the bare minimum and not taking on extra work, especially to spend more time on your personal life. The quiet quitting trend has started a new conversation about burnout, stress and the link between our mental health and the workplace.

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Why are people quiet quitting?

The COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for many people to slow down, reflect on work-life balance, the impact of hustle culture and reassess the values, goals and other factors that impact their quality of life. Many employees are trying to handle crushing economic struggles in their personal life, ranging from inflation, debt and wealth inequality to global crises like the pandemic and climate change. On top of that, many have learned that investing a significant amount of emotional energy and time and going all out for a job doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be rewarded or not be laid off or fired. So employees are pushing back against workplace conditions that aren’t conducive to their well-being. Here are some reasons why quiet quitting is on the rise.

  1. Quiet quitting is often a response to chronic burnout and stress. It is common to have a higher number of employees engage in the bare minimum of their job duties when they are burned out and/or stressed. The mental and physical exhaustion of stress can impact employees’ ability and desire to be fully engaged in their job duties. In a broader context, it has emerged as a reaction to a culture that pushes employees to overwork to reach their goals, while disregarding their mental health relationships.
  2. Employees are redefining the meaning of quality of life and disassociating their value or worth with performance and titles. Employees are assessing the benefits that come along with going above and beyond their responsibility, working longer hours, pay raises or other benefits and asking themselves if these benefits compare favourably with spending more time with family and friends and engaging in other leisure activities. 
  3. Another reason for the employee disengaging from their role could be that previous efforts exhibited by the employee weren’t valued or appreciated by their manager. This form of quiet quitting is a direct result of employees feeling their contributions are not valued due to a lack of acknowledgement of their contributions. 
  4. Quiet quitting often happens when employees no longer feel a sense of meaning or purpose within their role. This form of quiet quitting is where employees are physically present but have checked out mentally and emotionally. Employees may feel they need more of a challenge within their role or wish to pursue other opportunities within the organisation that provide them with a sense of meaning and purpose. Employees want to feel that their work contributes to the larger vision or mission of the company and they may no longer feel that in their present role. 

What are the pros and cons of quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting can have both upsides and downsides. For instance, it can impact one’s mental health in positive ways. Some of the positive benefits of quiet quitting are better work-life balance, setting better boundaries at work and reframing one’s mindset regarding hustle culture. In this way, it can help prevent burnout, since only doing what is required reduces the pressure to perform. 

These benefits can have a positive impact on an employee’s work performance in the form of better focus, concentration, and engagement while at work. When employees are under stress, it’s difficult for them to be fully engaged, which can impact their mental health. This results in them having to take time off work to address mental health issues and affects their work performance. Quiet quitting allows employees to turn work off while at home, rest and return to the workplace refreshed. 

Quiet quitting can also give some people the opportunity to put that effort into something they can enjoy doing for themselves. It can help them in slowing down, coping and reanalysing their purpose and priorities. 

However, quiet quitting can also have a negative impact in the long run. Some of the downsides are being perceived negatively by your colleagues and employer. They could feel that you’re not a team player, or distant, detached and unmotivated. This can hurt an employee’s reputation and even career progression as employers want to see that their employees are committed to going above and beyond their job. 

Moreover, we tend to value our work more when we are driven by it, feel passionate about it and subsequently put more effort into our work. Research shows that the more personal energy people invest in their jobs and the more engaged they feel in those jobs, the more satisfaction is derived from them. Doing the bare minimum can rob us of feelings of satisfaction and fulfilment, which then impacts both physical and mental well-being. Lack of effort, engagement and satisfaction can make us feel like the majority of our life is futile, meaningless and boring. This can cause mental health conditions such as depression and low mood. There can also be constant worry or anxiety about our performance and job stability because of the change in our performance at work. 

Finally, other people at the workplace, including human resources and employers, may not respond to someone quiet quitting and that can make you feel uncomfortable. This might mean that such employees are viewed as underperformers and end up on lists for downsizing and termination. This can also impact employer references and future job prospects as quiet quitters may get passed over for people who go above and beyond their expected responsibility.

Tips for employees who are considering quiet quitting

While it is important to have a work-life balance and set some boundaries at work, so is being efficient and maximising the time spent at the workplace. 

Employees who are considering quiet quitting should ask questions such as what benefits they are getting out of quiet quitting, whether they are putting their career at risk, how has quiet quitting improved or hurt their quality of life and/or career, and whether there are opportunities for them to re-engage in work in a way that feels fulfilling while still creating a healthy work-life balance.  Here are some tips for employees feeling disengaged.

  1. Assess the reason why you are quietly quitting or considering it and what are you hoping to gain from it. 
  2. Identify if it’s possible to establish a healthy work-life balance without quietly quitting. For example, you could take a mental health day to relieve your work stress.
  3. Ask yourself if your current position fulfils your career goals and if not speak with your supervisor about a new position in your organisation that may be better suited for your skills and interests before deciding to quietly quit.  
  4. Figure out why you feel burned out. Write down two things that could improve your burnout and lack of purpose and share them with your manager or human resources department. These could include a sabbatical or extended leave or flexible work timings.
  5. Weigh the pros and cons of quiet quitting and be ready to accept the consequences of any cons that may come along with your decision. 
  6. Consider professional help. You could talk to a therapist or a medical professional about any stress or feelings of anxiety or depression that you may be experiencing and to cope with burnout. You can also try an anonymous online mental health app such as Wysa, which has self-care tools to beat stress, improve your productivity and inspire yourself. These contain exercises that are based on research-backed cognitive behavioural therapy techniques.

Tips for employers to tackle quiet quitting

An employer who observes quiet quitting at their workplace needs to ask their employees what is not working out for them if they are disengaged, rather than make assumptions or come down with an iron fist. They should instead see this as an opportunity to create a better work environment for their employees. Here are some tips that managers can use if they notice some of their employees quietly quitting. 

  1. Reach out and communicate your concerns 

Employees want to know that their employers care about them and their well-being. By reaching out to them, you can gain better clarity as to why they are quietly quitting and if there are amicable solutions. 

  1. Check in with your employees

Develop quarterly surveys to assess work-life balance, feelings of job satisfaction and other factors related to why employees quietly quit and implement solutions based on the feedback provided.

  1. Reinforce boundaries

Employers can also set some boundaries to create a more healthy workplace. For instance, they can make it optional to answer after-hours emails and calls, reward employees for staying late by allowing them to leave early on other days and introduce a monthly mental health day to help them rest and recharge.

  1. Re-engage 

Create company events or activities that foster fun and community for the organisation. Employees want to feel their employers promote a culture that can balance fun and work which helps with retention, engagement and employees being more willing to go above and beyond their job duties. 

  1. Offer mental health support

Employers can also offer mental health support through digital platforms such as Wysa, which gives employees access to its AI-powered conversational chatbot, and a library of self-care tools and exercises, as well as sessions with emotional well-being professionals.

Commonly asked questions about quitting your job for mental health

Is mental health a good reason to quit a job?

Each individual needs to make the best choice for their mental health. While quitting due to mental health issues is a valid reason, you must assess your situation and figure out whether quitting your job would trigger other stressors that could exacerbate mental health symptoms. For example, consider the financial impact that quitting your job would have on your life and whether it might lead to money worries. You must also assess to what extent your mental health condition impacts your ability to function at work and if there are possible solutions that don’t end with quitting, for example, changing your role at work, decreasing work hours or even taking time off. However, if an employee feels that continuing to work would be detrimental to their mental health, then it would be beneficial to assess whether continuing to work is in their best interest.

How do I tell my boss I want to quit due to my diminishing mental health?

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your job might make you feel chronically stressed. Other warning signs include struggling with a sense of dread when you go to work or feeling that your concerns aren’t being addressed by your boss despite having been communicated. If you’ve decided to quit your job to protect your mental health, here’s some advice on how you can break the news to your boss.

  1. Ask to schedule a one-on-one meeting with your boss. 
  2. If you feel comfortable, start the conversation by sharing the impact that your mental health has had on your ability to function and why you need to resign. For example, you could say, “Within recent weeks I’ve noticed that I’ve had difficulty concentrating on specific tasks due to increased anxiety and no longer feel I can perform the job to the best of my abilities.” 
  3. Share any solutions that you’ve attempted to implement to cope with your mental health symptoms and explain that after careful consideration you feel it best to resign. 
  4. Be open to any possible solutions that your employer may provide to help assist you as this shows that they value the work you do. If you feel it would still be best to resign, thank your boss for their support and reaffirm your decision that it would be in your best interest for your mental health to resign from the job.

Photo by Nataliya Vaitkevich 


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