“Quiet quitting” has been in the news lately. This job trend doesn’t actually involve quitting; rather, it refers to burnt-out or dissatisfied employees becoming less psychologically invested in their job, or “doing the bare minimum” just to remain on the payroll and not taking on any more work than they’re required to do.
There’s no doubt that the last three years have been tough on many of us: working long hours from home and juggling our professional and personal lives while being confined to the house have left many of us feeling ready to throw in the towel. But is putting in less effort the best way to deal with job dissatisfaction?
No, say Paul Heng, Founder of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia, and Dr Lim Boon Leng, a psychiatrist at Dr BL Lim Centre for Psychological Wellness. Here, they share advice on how to address job burnout.
Q: What are some causes of job burnout?
Paul: Many people experience burnout when they’ve been doing the same job for a long time – after a while, the work no longer feels interesting or challenging. Add to this, general workplace dissatisfaction and an inability to connect with workmates, and it’s not hard to see why many people choose to “switch off”.
Dr Lim: Job burnout may also occur if you take on too many responsibilities or don’t take time off from your job when you need to. A toxic work environment and a lack of support from bosses and colleagues also contribute to the problem.
Q: How can we tell if we’re experiencing job burnout?
Dr Lim: You may feel depleted, exhausted, emotionally or mentally detached from your job, and/or cynical or negative about your work. You may not be as productive as you once were. People who are burnt out also report feeling anxious and depressed. They may even experience physical symptoms, such as insomnia, headaches and stomach aches.
Paul: You may not feel motivated to work, or you may feel like there’s nothing to look forward to during your work day. You may also dread having to face your bosses or colleagues and find reasons not to go to the office – for example, you may take sick leave even though you feel well enough to work.
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Q: Are certain types of people more vulnerable to burning out at work?
Dr Lim: People who consider themselves perfectionists or who feel overly responsible may find it harder to take a balanced approach to work. People who aren’t assertive or who dare not say “no” to their bosses are also more likely to suffer from burnout.
Q: How can job burnout impact our physical and mental wellbeing?
Dr Lim: It may increase your risk of developing anger issues, depression and anxiety. Physically, you may be more likely to experience fatigue, aches, pains and sleep issues. When you’re burnt out and stressed, you may end up overeating or skipping meals, exercising less or not at all, and/or finding comfort in alcohol. Together, these problems may affect your weight and lead to high blood pressure, stroke and/or heart disease in the long run.
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Q: What’s a good strategy for dealing with job burnout that doesn’t involve “quiet quitting” or “doing the bare minimum”?
Paul: First, acknowledge these negative feelings and tell yourself that you would like to stop feeling this way and for your job situation to improve. Then, decide how you’ll do things differently and come up with some realistic, practical and time-focused changes. For instance, commit to talking about your work issues with your boss, or reach out to a counsellor who can help you address what you’re dealing with. Explore all your options, and if there’s nothing else you can do then it might be time to find a new job or work for a different company.
Q: What can we do outside of work to help us manage our work stress better?
Dr Lim: Start with the mindset that self-care and personal time are important to your mental health. Taking time out for yourself helps you recharge and be more effective at what you do. There’s nothing selfish or lazy about wanting to rest, relax and look after yourself.
Second, make time for self-care. This requires determination and discipline.
There are many ways to destress from work. Exercising is good for your mind and body, or perhaps you can do something you really enjoy, like cooking, playing a musical instrument, gardening, and so on. Sometimes, you may just want to watch TV, talk to friends or do nothing at all, and that’s okay, too.
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Here’s more on how to deal with stress.