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Is ‘Quiet Quitting’ the Enemy or Solution to Today’s Hustle Culture?

As we’re finally coming out the other side of a global pandemic, new light is being thrown on the world of work. The result? Some serious debates about how we relate to our jobs and the space they hold in our lives.

Within these debates, ‘quiet quitting’ is a buzzword that’s dividing opinion. Although being a ‘quitter’ is loaded with negative connotations, at the root of this new phenomenon is the idea that our lives shouldn’t revolve around how we earn a living. This perspective - the antithesis of so-called hustle-culture - has the potential to make business leaders rethink how they relate to their employees.

So, instead of thinking of quiet quitting as employees slacking off, could it actually be the solution for everything that’s wrong with corporate work culture today?

First Up, What’s Hustle Culture?

If you’re present on social media - whether it’s TikTok or LinkedIn - it’s hard to get away from hustle culture. Motivational quotes, 5am morning routines and after hours ‘side hustles’ are everywhere. The message? Success takes sacrifice.

We see hustle culture in the expectation to work overtime to get ahead. In the young graduates who do gruelling unpaid internships to get a foot in the door. It’s there when employees are rewarded for not taking days off sick or praised for answering their emails on holiday.

After all, hustle culture perpetuates a kind of pride in being overworked and under-rested. The promise is that as long as you give work all of your attention, energy and time, you can achieve anything and everything.

Yet, for me, hustle culture isn’t the recipe for success; it’s a sure-fire path to burnout and unhappiness. The expectation that we should sacrifice our mental and physical health for work isn’t reasonable and certainly shouldn’t be celebrated.

Perhaps it’s why, in 2023, the International Classification of Diseases, the WHO’s handbook, will recognize ‘burn-out’ as an official diagnosis. According to research, close to half (46%) of employees are currently on the brink of burnout.

Studies have shown that Covid-19 fuelled stress, burnout and falling engagement amongst workers. Yet, for some employees, the shift to remote working that came with the pandemic gave them a new perspective on work.

With more time at home and less time rushing to keep up with the never-ending conveyor belt of work, commuting, social plans and other responsibilities, many people had an opportunity to re-evaluate how they invest their time and energy.

The result? Employees have had enough and are quitting their jobs at unprecedented rates. A survey of young workers showed that:

67% quit due to low pay

66% quit because of limited career opportunities

65% quit because they didn’t feel valued by their manager

If you resigned in order to start your own business or become a freelancer, these reasons for quitting the corporate world probably resonate. Yet, is the pressure really off when you become your own boss?

Hustle Culture When You’re Self-Employed

For some people, quitting a 9-5 role to become self-employed can feel a lot like jumping out of the fire and into the frying pan. Why? Because corporate hustle culture has pervaded the worlds of entrepreneurship and freelancing too.

We’re constantly told that it takes sacrifices and sleepless nights to succeed as a business owner. With that pressure on us, it can be easy to slip into the perils of hustle culture. Suddenly, we’re working a few hours on Sunday afternoons or answering emails after we’ve put the kids to bed.

It was certainly the case for me when I first became self-employed. The demands of launching a new business and networking along with the pressure I felt to ‘hustle’ made it difficult to set boundaries between my work and everything else.

Now, I’ve found some balance. Sure, I still work hard to meet my goals and take great pride in helping our clients here at One4Growth do the same. However, I also diarise my own downtime, say no more often, and I treat myself with the respect and humanity that I would want and expect from a boss.

None of this should be revolutionary, yet this concept of creating boundaries and saying no - dubbed as ‘quiet quitting’ - is causing controversy in the world of work.

So, What is Quiet Quitting?

The hashtag #QuietQuitting has now racked up more than 17 million views on TikTok. Press articles in every language are using the term and the noise has spread to Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites.

So, does quiet quitting mean simply giving up on your job? Is it a sign that this TikTok generation just can’t be bothered to work anymore?

In a word: no! In fact, for me, the term ‘quiet quitting’ is a misnomer that could use a bit of a rethink. It implies that doing what’s expected of you at work - as opposed to taking on extra unpaid hours and emotional labour - is in some way ‘quitting’ your job.

And whilst fresh teens and young twenty somethings may be the ones posting on TikTok, research has shown that it’s largely people aged between about 25 and 45 years who are shifting to self-employment and new types of work.

After all, ‘quiet quitting’ is really about setting boundaries and taking back control of your work-life balance. It means renouncing the hustle-culture mentality that work is your life, and that self-worth is measured by how much you’re prepared to sacrifice your health, hobbies and relationships for your job.

For many who are ‘quiet quitting’, they’re continuing to execute their jobs efficiently and successfully. They just set boundaries, work the hours they’re paid for, and don’t always ‘go the extra mile’ for their company.

For me, quiet quitting is a great call to action for employers who overwork and undervalue their staff; it gives me hope that we can re-shift focus onto employee experience and wellbeing. After all, there’s so much more to life than work!

So, what are your thoughts on hustle culture and quiet quitting? Is going above and beyond necessary to succeed? Or could setting boundaries improve everyone’s working lives?

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