When Tan Jia Min started working as a research assistant in 2019 after graduating from university, she was eager to give her best at work.
This meant changing or cancelling her personal plans to complete tasks assigned to her, and sometimes even finishing a week's work in two days.
Unfortunately, two years into the job, the 27-year-old, who works at a local university, found herself increasingly unmotivated to work as hard as she did in the beginning.
These days, she admits to only putting in "60 to 70 per cent" at work, and feels that she has a "diminished sense of urgency" towards getting things done — despite being a "perfectionist by nature".
Supervisor often 'busy and overwhelmed'
Tan is one of the many young adults who are "quiet quitting", which refers to the act of an employee cutting back on effort spent on work, and only doing what is minimally required of them.
Telling AsiaOne why she chose to quiet quit, the research assistant said: "I better understood and recognised the prospects of my job [after two years], and I realised that I would be limited by them in the long term."
There were also other reasons for her diminished interest, she explains.
"I didn't feel like I was learning on the job, and I also felt that I wasn't being supported in the tasks that were assigned to me, as I was mostly working in silos, and there were many things I had to figure out on my own.
"My supervisor was often busy and overwhelmed [by her own work], and was not the most detailed in planning the work she wanted me to do."
Tan shared she once received a call from her supervisor at 12.30am, and was instructed to complete a task by 10am the following day, as the latter had overlooked an important deadline.
Since deciding to quiet quit, however, Tan said she's no longer as compelled to reply to her supervisor's messages as quickly, especially after working hours.
Putting in more hours seen as doing more than required
To further understand the phenomenon of quiet quitting, AsiaOne conducted a survey in October to understand Singaporeans' attitudes towards work responsibilities.
Out of 918 respondents, slightly more than half – 55.3 per cent – defined putting in more hours as "doing more than required" at work.
57.7 per cent also considered putting in more hours without overtime pay as doing more than required.
Other activities that were also deemed doing more included taking up work beyond one's job title, such as answering phone calls after office hours, as well as being contactable for work 24/7.
Interestingly, respondents who were rank and file and PMETS were more than 10 per cent more likely than respondents who were C-Suite, senior management and self-employed to list these activities as doing more than required at work.
Like for Tan, her supervisor's calls and demands have left her feeling rather burnt out and "uninspired" to do more.
Although she still replies to her supervisor's messages after hours now, Tan said she tries to communicate her estimated dates of completion for tasks, to mitigate the possibility of having to work after hours.
"[This way she can let me know if certain things should be prioritised over others, or if I should get them done in a shorter span of time," she explained.
Sadly, she's not the only one.
Two-thirds of the respondents in the AsiaOne survey admitted to feeling burned out from work, with respondents aged between 35 to 54 being the group who were most likely to say they felt that way.
Despite her struggles, Tan said quitting isn't a feasible option either, as she still needs the job experience for her postgraduate degree, which she intends to pursue within the next few years.
This resonates with the survey results, which showed that close to 2 in 5 of respondents aged 18 to 34 cited "personal interest" as a factor which would motivate them to do more than required at work.
Differing attitudes among senior management
Although younger workers might think that tending to work-related matters after hours is considered doing more than what is required, respondents in senior management roles and higher income earners were less likely to think so.
For starters, older workers were more likely to be willing to do more than required at work.
In the survey, 46.6 per cent of respondents aged 55 and above felt that they should always act in the best interest of their organisation, compared to 21.7 per cent of those aged between 18 to 54.
Respondents earning less than $16,000 a month were close to 1.5 times as likely to consider putting in more hours than required without overtime pay as doing more than required.
However, respondents aged between 35 to 54 were also the most likely to say they were burned out from work.
Commenting on the survey findings, AsiaOne's Consumer Insights and Analytics Office head Edmund Chua said: "These findings indicate that there are differences between what employers and senior management versus what employees define to be part of work requirements.
"If left unchecked, these differences can contribute to burnout among management and employees. Alignment in expectations cannot be assumed."
Chua also noted that these differences are not just a result of differences in position, but are also generational differences.
"While Gen Z who are now more likely to be in management may be more likely to believe that they should always act in the best interest of their organisation, they are much more likely to consider what they will get in return if they do more that required."
More time for side hustles and hobbies?
When asked why she thought an increasing number of young adults are quiet quitting, Tan felt that it was because for some of them, holding down their existing job provides some sort of stability, given the rough job market.
"Perhaps they might have also realised that their existing job responsibilities don't require 100 per cent of their time and energy, so they do the minimum and then spend the remainder of the time and effort on side hustles or hobbies."
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