By Dr. Lana Saal, CWP, MCHES

Quiet Quitting has been the new buzzword within the workplace recently inspiring opportunities for thought provoking internal reflections along with engaging workplace discussions.

What does this trending alliteration mean exactly? Some have coined it as a new workplace approach where individuals who feel burned-out or unsatisfied and undervalued as employees resultantly put forth minimal energy and effort to merely get by to keep paychecks and benefits.  The phrase has even gained recognition in the online slang dictionary to include “Quiet quitting is an informal term for the practice of reducing the amount of effort one devotes to one’s job, such as by stopping the completion of any tasks not explicitly stated in the job description. The term implies that this is done secretly or without notifying one’s boss or manager.”  It does not actually refer to quitting a job. Rather, the term is used in varying ways that refer to different methods of reducing productivity and work output.

Where did this movement (or lack thereof) come from?

Some say the impact from the pandemic over the past couple of years has created this coasting in the workplace approach.

If we look at this work-place trend from a whole-person wellness approach using the Six Dimensions of Wellness, sheds light into how we may have arrived here.

The first dimension, emotional wellness is the degree to which one feels positive and enthusiastic about self and life.  A study from an APA survey found during the pandemic the so-called “Quarantine 15” weight gain was real, with men reporting an average weight gain of 37 pounds and women an average of 22 pounds of weight gain. These physical changes have potential to impact our self-concept. In addition to the ongoing uncertainty associated with the pandemic and availability of vaccinations, treatments, and risks we no doubt felt a deficit in our enthusiasm toward life and the future.

During the past almost three years the impact on our physical health was real.  Movement, fitness, sleep, relaxation, and a healthy lifestyle may have taken a back seat.  There may have been more time without the daily commute, yet our physical health suffered, which affected and effected our emotional health.

In line with the new normal of working at home, places of worship along with our gyms and yoga studios were for the most part shuttered.  Community gatherings and opportunities to get together for fundraising and local events came to a screeching halt.  Some research finds the impact on our social dimension of wellness is by far the most impactful on our overall mental health.  It is human nature to want to belong.  Making contributions to the good of one’s community, thinking of others, being a part of and be accepted by members of a group helps us feel part of something bigger and more important than ourselves which fulfills this essential emotional need for our social health.

The impact on intellectual wellbeing as we strive to better ourselves through life-long learning was unmistakably clobbered.  Schools, libraries, and venues of culture ceased to exist for a time.  Sure, we may have viewed endless online offerings through Zoom or Teams, but screen fatigue ensued.

Our spiritual health suffered repercussions from ongoing changes and uncertainties.  All that we knew as our normal was shattered.  All we had believed and our search for meaning and purpose were shaken.  Political and health realms collided and many walks of life experienced divisiveness.  We experienced pain in the unexpected loss of our loved ones, neighbors, friends, and co-workers.

The human brain is constantly working to protect us and keep us safe from harm, danger, or imminent threat.  It is perpetually in a state of fight or flight (even when we are not aware) which is why we tend to have most of our daily thoughts recurring at a rate of 80% negative.  Our brain is processing from a worse-case scenario approach and our magnificent built-in survival system has been especially active during COVID-19, especially in times of trauma and the pandemic has been a collective trauma.  Traumatic stress has a broad range of effects on brain function and structure, as well as on neuropsychological components of the brain.  Perhaps this Quiet Quitting is the result of the trauma our brains have perceived.  We are working to survive, perhaps literally.  We may be shutting down and doing less at work, so that the brain has the time, energy, strength, and fortitude to heal.

Maybe this Quiet Quitting is a representation of the impact and imbalance that the other five dimensions have directly and indirectly on the final, sixth dimension, our occupational wellness, as we ask ourselves are we satisfied with our work?  Has this dimension become distorted from all we have been through?

When looking at wellness as our journey to the destination of well-being, embracing and proactively addressing each dimension as equally essential in the sum of the whole serves us best because what happens in one dimension impacts the others.

There has never been a better time to embrace and activate each dimension of wellness towards the greater good of developing your whole-person well-being.  Appreciate what an incredible being you are.  Go outside and play.  Have coffee or wine (no judgement) with a friend. Read a book.  Sit in thankfulness and appreciation.  Link your purpose to your profession.

Remember, through all the muck, pain, and despair, there is pure beauty, strength, humility, and peace in the resilient human spirit.

Who knows, maybe this Quiet Quitting will give way to Reflective Recharging.