Quiet Quitting: The Loud Truths about Workplace Health

Ever felt so frustrated with work that you’ve fantasised about throwing in your resignation letter?

Before you make this dream a reality, your phone pings with a notification from your credit card company: bills are due and they’re not going to pay themselves. You change your mind and are resigned to the fact that you’re chained to your 9am – 6pm gig (forever).

That’s where quiet quitting comes in. While the exact definition of quiet quitting varies, the most important thing to note is that the quiet quitter doesn’t actually quit their job. Instead, they do the bare minimum in their role, just so they can continue drawing a paycheck.

Earlier this year, quiet quitting came to attention; since then, discussion around it has been fast and furious. Today, we dive deeper into the sudden interest in quiet quitting and what this says about workplace health. Is there something we can do to improve our mental health so that we can improve our experience at the workplace?

Quiet quitting seems to be a worldwide phenomenon.

Although the discussion around quiet quitting first took off in America, the sentiment isn’t a uniquely USA one.

For one, in early 2021, before quiet quitting became the latest buzzword, tang ping (躺平) became popularised in China. The literal translation of ‘to lie flat’ in Mandarin, tang ping is a protest against the culture (and oftentimes, glorification) of overworking and the endless rat-race.

In Singapore, quiet quitting has captured the attention of local media outlets too, with multiple think pieces published about the phenomenon. It’s clear that quiet quitting is a common attitude that many individuals are choosing to adopt.

It could be a sign of workplace burnout.

Workplace culture is important for mental health.

There are many reasons for why quiet quitting has taken off; a huge contributing factor would be Covid-19 and how it’s changed our relationship with work. The pandemic has re-organised the way we work, introducing the flexibility of working-from-home – and, more importantly, proving the success of work-from-home arrangements.

However, Covid-19 has also had a huge negative impact on our mental health. In Singapore, local studies show that Singaporeans experienced higher levels of stress, as a result of the pandemic. For many, it’s also been a wake-up call to prioritise one’s health and take greater action towards making sure one stays well and healthy.

This is important, in light of the fact that Singaporeans clock some of the longest hours at work compared to other countries globally. In a recent study, Singapore was in the top 5 most overworked cities in the world. Such can also be seen in local studies; such as in a survey done in March 2022, where 78% of respondents shared that they feel burnt out from work.

With this increasing amount of stress, it’s no wonder that Singaporeans find the idea of quiet quitting attractive. We are a population of burnt out, tired workers — and from a practical perspective, if you’re not being compensated for going above and beyond, then, why bother?

We need to put better structures in place to protect our mental health at work.

On average, we spend at least ⅓ of our waking hours at work.

It is thus imperative that we set up our workplaces in the right way to ensure the sustainability of our workforce and support their mental health. We need to ensure our workplaces allow employees to thrive, rather than be another source of constant, unresolvable stress.

Mental health must be enshrined in company culture. This starts with the leadership team: the leaders need to walk the walk. Rather than have it just be lip-service, there should be actionable steps taken to promote better mental health in the company.

Leaders must take a clear-headed look at company priorities and figure out how to balance profit margins with a better workplace culture. Of course, this is easier said than done. It can be challenging to overhaul an entire organisation, especially if the company has been around for a while.

Start small: instituting a rule to minimise office communication after hours or introducing mental health days for employees to take a break. This is because huge, sudden changes may also fizzle out in the long run, if the company isn’t ready to accept them. In the longer-run, workplace policies must be introduced, so that the commitment to mental health is formalised.

There are many tools and resources that companies can tap on, when they’re starting on this journey. Ultimately, each organisation must forge their own path. After all, culture is built gradually, through changes maintained over time.

As individuals, we should be our own advocates.

There’s no person that knows your health better than you.

However, when we’re caught up in the haze of work, it can sometimes be hard to tell if we’re over-stressed – until it’s too late. Understanding the state of your own mental health can prevent you from burning out or help you to take steps to mitigate your stress before you come to resent your workplace.

For most of us, it’s not a natural action to check in with ourselves. Yet, it’s good to get a weekly sense of the state of our mental health, much like how some may weigh themselves every week or track their timings when they do a run. No matter how busy you are, make the effort to set aside some quiet space at the end of the week for self-reflection.

It may feel silly at the start (we know!) but it’s an important step. Doing this regularly will help you catch onto any negative thoughts or sentiments around work and address them early on, before they snowball into something too large to apprehend. Given that work takes up such a large part of our day, we should help ourselves create a conducive environment, for our mental health to flourish as well.

If you’re personally struggling with stress at the workplace or are an employer who wants to introduce better mental health initiatives in your company, we are here to help. Through our client matching service, it’s easy to find a therapist who’d be able to support your mental health journey.

Where private practice meets
co-working.
A Space Between provides flexible co-working office spaces for rent to therapists and other professionals in Singapore.
A Space Between is a destination for mental health therapy activities. Counsellors utilise our many conducive therapy rooms for consultations. Located conveniently downtown and offering your independent therapists rent by the hour, we house many professional mental health practitioners, including LGBTQ+ friendly ones. To find out more about the therapists practising in A Space Between, write to us at [email protected].
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