design business WFH

3 Tips for Quiet Quitting (when you work for yourself)

The latest buzz term in the post-pandemic workplace is “quiet quitting.” For too long, the American can-do culture has about done us in—expecting success to rise from pushing the limits of what it means to give it your all. Add to that the historical societal expectations for child rearing placed on women that kept us completely out of the higher tiers of corporate America, and many times, out of the building completely. To shove our way in, we had to do the same job but better, and do so without letting it be known that there were children who needed to be picked up from school, teacher conferences to be had, or doctors’ appointments to be booked. For mothers, the adage, “Never let them see you sweat,” quickly became, “Never let them see you parent.”

Since the nineties, accommodations like paid paternity/partner leave, flexible work schedules, and the recognition that, frankly, moms bring good sh*t to the table, has increased our position on the corporate totem pole, but the majority is still not at the top. When we are, we certainly are not getting paid the same as our male counterparts for it. Don’t even get me started about the limits that ethnicity, race, age, sexuality, marital/partner status, and physical ability add to this heavy load for many. We’re all trying to claw our way to the top, but those claws are getting worn down, and there’s nothing like the screeching halt of a pandemic to point that out.

Cue the Great Resignation and with that, people deciding that driving their own decisions about work and home balance is how it should be. Now, people are quietly shutting those laptops at 5 o’clock (in their own time zone) and, behold! corporate America is still standing. Perhaps it’s because people are returning to their desks the next morning with a sense of self-control, satisfaction, and balance. 

So, is this a choice we can sustain and stay a successful economy? And if so, how does the self-employed lot accomplish this without losing respect from their contractor, let alone their gig? 

I would argue, yes, we can afford to shut it down at a reasonable hour. I’m not alone, of course. Many studies have shown that workers were just as productive when they had to work from home, even when putting in less hours sitting at their desks. Dogs were walked, bread was made, and yes, even emails were answered. On the flip side, the home as office also blurred the lines of the work day and now we’re boomeranging fast to try and sharpen those lines back up. The hybrid work week (part home, part office) is a result. Quiet quitting is another.

So how does a fully-remote, self-employed contract worker (and mom) quietly quit when there’s competition for work and looser work schedules all around? Here’s how:

  1. Set up expectations from the get-go.
    If you start answering emails on Saturdays, it doesn’t take long for the needy client to learn (and exploit) that you’re always working for them, always. 
  2. Don’t lie when life happens.
    Got a soccer game to go to? A kid to pick up? Tell your client exactly why you can’t make that meeting. It normalizes life as part of the work day and helps remind employers that freelancers are people too.
  3. Do good work and trust it.
    If you prove yourself a reliable asset to your employer, they are bound to give you more flexibility because they want your quality. But, when you are “on the clock,” be there fully, and try not to mix your work and home life (Does “No one will see if I do a quick Instacart order while I do this Zoom call,” ring a bell?).

A combination of measured commitment, embracing one’s reality, and openness is all it takes to release yourself from guilt and restore balance when or if the line between your home and your office gets smudged.