Quiet Quitting and Burnout: Work-Life Imbalance to Blame

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With the state of actively disengaged employees hovering around 1.8 : 1 (in the US) as of 2022, it’s clear as day that “Quiet Quitting” is becoming a problem worldwide. Managers surprisingly experienced the greatest drop in productivity. Say goodbye to optional meetings and team-building events. Say hello to mental health challenges.

Employees are burnt out, communication is stunted, and nobody wants to open Slack while eating dinner anymore. What about the next generation of employees? Less than 4 in 10 young hybrid or remote workers clearly know their daily work expectations. Many Gen Z workers will quit on the spot if they find their values compromised. Yikes!

Why Does Burnout Lead to Quiet Quitting?

Burnout, as the WHO puts it, is the “syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.” (International Classification of Diseases).

You can suffer from burnout short-term or long-term, but it often takes more than just a “rest day” to recover. Some people have “long COVID,” others have chronic burnout. Some have both (hang in there, we see you). How are employees responding to their mental and physical exhaustion?

Through “Quiet Quitting”.

Quiet quitting is essentially doing the bare minimum at a job, and working no longer than necessary. For some, it’s a way to help soften the blow if they anticipate a layoff. For others, it’s the last resort to cope with unreasonable work demands (such as regular unpaid overtime). Although quiet in practice, it screams a lack of trust and satisfaction with the organization.

The Statistics on Quiet Quitting

It’s hush-hush at work, but hollered over a loudspeaker on the Internet. Take a look at some surprising statistics on quiet quitting in 2022:

  • Only 15% of employees say they’re actively engaged at work (Gallup)
  • Around 47% of employees in the US see work as simply a way to pay the bills…
  • …whereas 51% say their job is a part of their identity (Pew Research Center)
  • A rumored 50% of the US workforce is quiet quitting (Gallup)
  • In numerical terms, that’s over 80 million people (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Examples of Work-Life Imbalance

Everyone has a tipping or boiling point. When you’ve just started to doze off and your boss shoots you an urgent email. Or when you’ve booked vacation plans ahead of time just to be denied of it last minute. We need a healthy balance of work and play to regulate our state of mind.

Here are some examples of work-life imbalance, which may lead to burnout in the long run:

  • A mother of two works overtime and has to apply for extra childcare support. At home, she often receives “urgent” texts from her manager right before bedtime and has developed insomnia from an unpredictable work schedule.
  • A college student promised to visit his parents for the holidays. A week before his scheduled paid time off, his boss mandates that employees must work during the holidays in order for a raise the following year.
  • Ms. A teaches two high school classes and is expected to grade their homework and quizzes outside of office hours (unpaid overtime). She often finds herself working late into the night and relies on coffee to wake herself up early in the morning.
  • Dr. B takes on many psychiatric patients a day in his private practice. He lets his patients call him at anytime to discuss their feelings. He often has to miss out on special events during the weekends and weeknights because he knows most patients require support during those times.

Final Thoughts on Quiet Quitting

Quiet quitting can be an easy way out for employees who are on the verge of burnout. How can employers fix the vicious and rapid HR layoff-hire cycle for good? Companies who retain their employees for longer-than-normal times can attest to their awesome company culture and open communication. Managers who can encourage kind but firm boundaries.

Perhaps that looks like 15-minute morning kickoffs to encourage one another and start the workday on a high note. Or maybe it’s a fun end-of-month team-building activity that people actually voted for. Employees are happier because their thoughts and feelings matter to the company.

Many HR journals have attributed quiet quitting to low trust around the organization. People of all seniority levels want to be seen and heard. It’s human nature to have a drive to succeed and work towards something meaningful. Every company can use a refresher on the principles of emotional intelligence and empathy—the glue that holds people together.


Forrester N. (2022). Quiet quitting in science: share your views. Nature, 10.1038/d41586-022-03547-1. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-03547-1.

Lord, Jonathan. (2022). Quiet quitting is a new name for an old method of industrial action.

Salvagioni, D. A. J., Melanda, F. N., Mesas, A. E., González, A. D., Gabani, F. L., & Andrade, S. M. (2017). Physical, psychological and occupational consequences of job burnout: A systematic review of prospective studies. PloS one, 12(10), e0185781. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0185781.
Scheyett A. (2022). Quiet Quitting. Social work, swac051. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1093/sw/swac051.

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