Career Cushioning & Acting Your Wage – The Evolution of Quiet Quitting
Whether or not you subscribe to its ethos, it is nearly impossible to have missed quiet quitting’s rapid rise to fame. This whirlwind of a trend began to take flight on TikTok, with a video posted by twentysomething engineer Zaid Khan proclaiming with quiet determination that “your worth as a person is not defined by your labour” and that he was “quitting the idea of going above and beyond”. The trend quickly spread across social media platforms, only to be picked up and torn to shreds by traditional media outlets who dubbed its subscribers ‘lazy’ and ‘entitled’.
Quiet quitting is, in our eyes at least, less of a movement and more of a symptom. A symptom of a workforce who is equal parts disengaged and unmotivated. These people aren’t slackers or loafers, what they lack isn’t work ethic, but passion. It is an indisputable fact that work should not be your entire life, and that to lead a healthy, fulfilled existence you need to nurture yourself in other areas, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t strive to enjoy your career. Boundaries are important, and putting in regular unpaid overtime is a recipe for burnout, a fact that became abundantly clear with the rising prevalence of working from home.
Following a global pandemic the workforce as a whole began to reevaluate the importance and structure of work-life balance. The younger generation was particularly inclined to rethink their relationship with what millenial’s dubbed “hustle culture”, being drawn instead to a new way of envisioning their position in the corporate world which allowed them the distance and freedom to live on their own terms. Although there is some debate on the topic, the creators of these trends insist that they have nothing to do with slacking and everything to do with fulfilling your job requirements within the constraints of an eight-hour workday, ensuring a clearly defined separation between work and life.
Act your wage is the next evolution of this trend, with an even greater insistence on putting into work what you get out. Countless tiktokers can be seen encouraging their audiences that minimum wage equals minimum effort. It is in its simplest terms the concept of going into work, doing what you’re paid to do, and nothing more. Whilst the attitude of ‘acting your wage’ may seem abrasive, the thought behind it is less so. We have job descriptions and responsibilities for a reason after all, and more effort often should warrant greater pay. Although harmful if taken to its extremes, the flip side to this trend is that it may be an effective method of teaching young workers to place greater value on their time and work, encouraging them to speak up in their own defence.
This evolution of the quiet quitting trend appears to be very much geared towards blue collar workers, and is especially prominent amongst those who are simply working to get paid, rather than those who are passionate about their careers. It is a sad but simple truth that not everyone loves their job. But even for those who do, there are some merits to the idea of quiet quitting – a greater consideration for one’s personal time and life outside of work being one of them.
Amidst periods of global uncertainty, with a rising chain of trends related to work lifestyle balance resets, arose career cushioning. Career cushioning is a term borrowed from the dating sphere that refers to keeping one’s options open and preparing for your next job whilst remaining in your current position. It’s a manner of ensuring one’s job security that is often done discreetly, think upskilling in your free time, regular resume and linkedin updates, networking during lunch breaks. This practice too suggests a lack of passion for one’s current role, another symptom of a disengaged workforce, but using your free time to improve yourself, both on a personal and a professional level, is far from harmful.
What these trends suggest to us is that the future of work is what you make of it. It has everything to do with setting your own boundaries, crafting your own work lifestyle, and choosing exactly when and how you work. Office solutions like coworking spaces and hotdesking or working from home fit neatly into this era of choice and freedom. However you choose to balance your work-life balance, whether that’s through ‘quiet quitting’ or ‘acting your wage’ or treating work as a lifestyle, it’s important to regularly reevaluate this equilibrium to ensure you’re living in a manner which is conducive to your own happiness and sense of fulfilment. Remember that you have the autonomy to define your own work boundaries, and that being a diligent worker should never take precedence over your own wellbeing.
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