Quiet quitting vs… loud overworking? There’s a third way.

Quiet quitting is the practice of doing no more work than one is contractually obliged to do, especially to spend more time on personal activities (Collin’s Dictionary). Quiet quitting became a topic of many articles during the pandemic as part of the debate whether remote work has led to decreased productivity. Four years later, as articles about it persist, it begs the question: what is the opposite of quiet quitting? Perhaps, loud overworking?

The phenomenon of “loud overworking” is relatable to many of us, even though it is not a formal term. It involves the need to stand out in the workplace by working long hours, taking on extra responsibilities, and self-promoting. A culture that glorifies professional ambition expects employees to be always energetic, vocal, committed, and productive. Saying no to unpaid work can be viewed as unprofessional, ungrateful, or lazy. In this aspect, “quiet quitting” can come across as a term that was coined only to shame employees who prioritize their wellbeing over an unsatisfying job.

Has our focus on growth become an obsession?

Both quiet quitting and loud overworking are symptoms of the same problem: our society’s obsession with growth. The current economic system incentivizes companies to constantly expand and innovate to stay competitive and meet shareholder expectations. This pressure often results in employees feeling the need to push themselves to the limit to help the company achieve its goals, while fulfilling their own ambitions. Unfortunately, this often leads to understaffed teams and exhausted workers, perpetuating the cycle of overwork and burnout.

The pandemic was a wake-up call for many of us. It forced us to slow down and reassess our priorities. For some, it was a realization that they don’t want to work long hours anymore. For others, it was a moment of clarity that they were stuck in a job that didn’t bring them fulfillment. Anecdotally, many employees saw the concept of quiet quitting as an opportunity to rebalance their work-life ratio and reclaim some of the unpaid overtime from their past. This was a chance to take stock of what really matters to them and to make changes that align with their values and goals.

There is a third way

Of course, being ambitious and passionate about work is not inherently wrong. In fact, it can be a powerful driving force for entrepreneurs and those striving to achieve their goals. However, when this drive is combined with an excessive focus on work at the expense of personal and social life, it can ultimately lead to regret.

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard” is a regret that frequently appears on the top five regrets of people on their deathbed.

The success of experiments with 4-day workweeks, like this one in the UK, shows that there is a more sustainable approach to maintaining productivity while prioritizing employee wellbeing. Until this approach becomes the norm, it is up to you to find a healthy work-life balance that works for you. Regardless of your profession, here are a few ideas to help you reprioritize your professional wellbeing.

Establish your boundaries and say “no” more often

Effective leaders are assertive and set clear boundaries to communicate what is off-limits. By doing so, they create a sense of respect and establish healthy relationships with their colleagues. Learning to say no with confidence is crucial, especially when saying yes creates conflicts with your personal life. For instance, declining work calls after 6 pm may be necessary if it interferes with your family time. While exceptions are inevitable, make sure they don’t become the norm.

Be mindful of common mind flaws

As humans, we are prone to making cognitive errors that affect our work and personal lives. Two of the most common are planning fallacy and self-serving bias. Planning fallacy occurs when we underestimate the amount of time and effort required to complete a task. The self-serving bias leads us to overestimate the urgency and importance of our own requests. In a workplace, this combination is potent.

Have you ever been in a situation where a colleague messages you about an urgent task that needs to be completed immediately, leaving you feeling obligated to prioritize it above everything else? Most of the time, deadlines are arbitrary and can be flexible. Therefore, it’s essential to take a step back and assess the situation before committing to an immediate deadline. Adding a few extra days to account for unforeseen delays or complications can provide a buffer to ensure you have time for everything without feeling overwhelmed.

Prioritize self-care

It is important to prioritize taking care of yourself, so you can also take better care of others. This may require reclaiming time from work or adopting a flexible schedule to allocate sufficient time for yourself. Opt for activities that promote relaxation, rejuvenation, and personal growth. This can include hobbies, spending time with loved ones, exercise, reading, meditating, or anything else that rejuvenates you. Engaging in such activities will boost your energy and also increase focus and productivity at work. It’s a win-win.

Putting things into perspective

We often get caught up in the demands of work and forget about the bigger picture. While your job is undoubtedly an important part of your life, it’s essential to remember that it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Your physical and mental health should always be a top priority, no matter what your career ambitions may be.

A wholesome life is about achieving balance between your professional and personal pursuits. Neither quiet quitting nor loud overworking is a balanced act. Instead of getting caught up in these extremes, you can be intentional with your working hours and prioritize taking care of yourself. Everything else will come together in a way that feels fulfilling and balanced.

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