Over the past few decades, globalisation has left its mark on workplaces worldwide. Because of this, workplaces are becoming increasingly competitive. And so, workers feel obligated to out-hustle their peers – both in their office and half-a-world away.
But recently, they’ve been struggling. Over the last few years, we’ve gone through a pandemic, we’ve struggled to keep up with inflation – all while coping with rising workloads.
Many have had enough. In response to rising stress, some have dialled back their efforts, doing only what their job demands. Yes, it’s the global phenomenon we’ve all heard about – quiet quitting.
For the most part, it’s understandable. But at the same time, employers are facing immense pressure to raise profits. So which approach has more worth in today’s environment – hustling or “quiet quitting”?
Or could both camps work together to achieve financial success and job satisfaction? Let’s explore these questions below.
Hustle culture and its effects on the workplace
Before we dive into quiet quitting, a question – how did we get to where we are? It’s a complex issue, with numerous contributing factors (e.g., technology advancements, pandemic stress, retiring boomers, shortage of workers for critical industries, etc).
But of all these root causes, hustle culture has gotten the most attention. What is hustle culture? It’s a philosophy that glorifies going beyond the call of duty, doing whatever it takes to achieve organisational goals.
From a business standpoint, this mindset appears to have played a role in driving economic growth. Since 2000, Australia’s GDP has almost quadrupled from 614 billion AUD in 2000 to 2.28 trillion AUD. We are also the world’s 12th largest economy.
But working long hours is not without its costs. Studies show that when overwork becomes the norm, health problemslike hypertension, obesity, anxiety, burnout, and depression are almost sure to follow.
Nonetheless, proponents of hustle culture have recently critiqued quiet quitters. They argue that by refusing to work long hours, they could be passed over for promotions.
Recently, Elon Musk, delivered a terse ultimatum to employees after acquiring Twitter: work long hours at a high intensity – or leave.
The quiet quitter’s approach to work/life balance
In early 2020, pandemic lockdowns gave many worn-out workers a chance to reflect.
Many chose to make a change. As the economy began to recover in 2021, workers began leaving their positions in droves. The shift in America was so significant that it became known as The Great Resignation. In 2021 alone, 47 million people in the United States voluntarily left their jobs.
And while this trend has yet to hit Australia, an Allianz survey predicts two million workers may leave their positions in the next year.
But not everyone can quit outright. Instead, many employees have decided to “quiet quit.” This choice meant they only completed tasks within their job description, declining all extraneous work.
They also started leaving work “on time” and setting boundaries at home (e.g., no answering emails, calls or texts after work hours).
The idea behind this approach: giving themselves the breathing space needed to preserve their drive, creativity, and mental health.
In a recent Healthline article, psychotherapist Tania Taylor asserts quiet quitting can make room for activities that can replenish us, saying “quality time spent… with friends and family is a key ingredient to improving our mental well-being.”
But for some, quiet quitting might not be sustainable. Some employees genuinely enjoy immersing themselves in their work. For them, merely working within their job description could lead to a degradation in mental health.
According to Tania Taylor, “studies show that being… less engaged in work can result in higher levels of depression amongst employees.”
Can both approaches be successful in today’s business environment?
In the 21st century, global business has shifted significantly. In decades past, success was typically measured by the number of widgets you produced. But now, knowledge industries are among the biggest drivers of wealth.
In these industries, creativity and innovation rule the day. But when companies demand long hours, the resulting burnout can greatly impact on-the-job performance.
So perhaps, a rethinking of workplace philosophy is in order.
Whenever possible, businesses should allow employees to work according to their rhythms. While some may thrive working long hours, others flourish when they work flexible hours. Do you know who prefers what? If not, it could be time to get your leaders to ask your team members what helps them thrive.
One size does not fit all. By fitting the job to the human and respecting off-the-job boundaries, workplace satisfaction will likely improve, and with it, engagement and productivity.
Margie Ireland is the author of The Happy Healthy Leader – how to achieve your potential even during a crisis.Margie is a registered Psychologist, Leadership Coach and Workshop Facilitator, highly sought after to help Leaders and their teams navigate stress and change with healthier coping strategies, leading to happier, healthier and high-performing teams. For more information visit www.margieireland.com