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How quiet quitters gain from doing less work

Alexandria Williams
September 14, 2022

So-called quiet quitting is the act of doing exactly what the job calls for and nothing more. Now workers are using their free time and peace of mind to find new ventures.

Picture of someone at a computer
Quiet quitters stay in their roles while doing only what is in their job descriptionImage: Fabian Strauch/dpa/picture alliance

"In order to avoid burnout and live a happy life I need to do three things,” said career content creator Genesis Hinckley in a TikTok post. "Work from 9-5, use sick and mental health days … and lastly be as loyal to the company as they are to you," she recommended in an interview for DW.

Hinckley, who works at a Big Tech company, is part of the growing number of tech workers who are saying "no" to constant pressure, overtime and stress at work. They call this strict adherence to job duties, over going above and beyond in the workplace, "quiet quitting."

Posts on the topic began trending on short-video app TikTok in late August.

"It's just putting up boundaries and being like I'm not going to break my back to make everyone happy," said Hinckley. "It's doing your best on the projects you're assinged to. And then leaving, not responding to emails after 5."

Rather than being a new phenomenon, Hinckley believes that quiet quitting has been silently looming in the background.

When did quiet quitting start to grow?

Hinckley explained that a major driver behind the growing interest of the topics on social media was the COVID-19 pandemic, which pushed many workers out of the office and into their homes

There they had free time to pursue their passions and placed a greater emphasis on mental well-being.

"We realized there's so much more to life than just going to work," Hinckley said. 

While workers shifted away from work pressure and toward personal enjoyment, profits made by tech companies still climbed throughout much of the pandemic.  

An infographic showing rising stock prices for Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Apple during the coronavirus pandemic

Apple, Microsoft and Google owner Alphabet reported over $50 billion (€49.92 billion) in combined profits in the second quarter of 2021. 

This showed those working in the tech industry that "people can be just as productive, if not more, working from home," said Bonnie Dilber, a recruiting manager who made a viral post about quiet quitting that was reshared across LinkedIn, world's largest online professional network.

She told DW that working from home also offers employees additional "lifestyle and financial benefits."

Why are people quiet quitting?

Dilber likened financial gains from working at home to workers saving money on daily commutes and moving away from expensive city centers. Hinkley pointed out that those who stayed at home, and did exactly what their job descriptions called for, were also able to earn additional income from profitable side ventures. 

"I think people saw that they were able make money outside of their regular job," Hinckley said.

Hinckley makes additional income from investing in real estate and renting her properties on Airbnb. "I make about the same, if not more money from this than my monthly salary." 

While Hinckley is happy with her current job, she believes that the freedom and added income gained from working at home has generally made people more aware of flaws in the labor system. "I realized that I was not as in control of my career as I thought I was."

Quiet quitters want growth

Dilber said that the feeling of lack of growth opportunities is an "underrecognized push factor" for those who choose the quiet quit. "Usually, what causes quiet quitting to happen in the workplace is more about the management and the opportunities for growth that cause people to feel like there's no point to doing anything." 

Gains made from labor in the form of income are on the decline, globally. Wage increases have not kept pace with rising inflation, which has pushed up the price for goods and services. Real earnings for American workers have decreased by 3% since July 2021, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

Anxious worker finging put bad news about business project
The tech industry has seen a spike in layoffs during the third quarter of 2022Image: YAY Images/imago images

Tech companies have also been steadily announcing layoffs since May 2022, adding further pressure to the labor market. The highest number of layoffs across the industry occurred in June this year, with 29,137 workers being retrenched across 237 companies, according to Trueup's "Tech Layoff Tracker." 

The number of layoffs decreased by around 29% by the end of August, when quiet quitting videos started trending on TikTok, and Google searches for the phrase hit peak popularity. 

While Hinckley said layoffs have made her even more mindful about producing good work, it is not pushing her away from her stance on quiet quitting. She still strives to be a top performer in her role, while maintaining work-life balance. But, Hinckley realizes that she needs to prepare herself no matter what.

"Why are you so loyal to a company that honestly, they can replace you in less than an hour?" she queried. 

Edited by: Uwe Hessler