Quiet quitting to career cushioning: the post-pandemic work buzz terms you need to know

A group of colleagues are sitting in a meeting room. There is a bright green and yellow tint.

The way we work is one of the many lasting legacies of the pandemic. It accelerated many of the workplace trends that were already beginning to evolve and changed people’s relationships with their job. 

Accompanying all those changes to work was a whole list of new work-related ‘buzz terms’ widely used in media to make sense of it all. From the “Great Resignation” to “quiet quitting,” these phrases quickly became part of everyday conversations, but do you know what they really mean?

It’s essential to stay informed about these new terms and their implications for the workplace. It is also worth noting that behind these new trends are real people who are navigating a rapidly changing job market. Many of your colleagues are facing difficult decisions about their careers and their futures, and it’s important to approach these conversations with empathy and understanding.

So let’s go over some of the workplace buzz terms and how they impact the way you work.

The Great Resignation

A woman looks stressed with her head resting on her hand.
Thousands quit their jobs post-pandemic as many wanted to change their relationship with work after COVID. (Getty Images)

The term that started it all. “The Great Resignation” is the phenomenon of workers leaving their jobs in record amounts. COVID-19, the rise of remote work, and a renewed focus on work-life balance inspired thousands to leave their jobs. Even though the buzz has diminished a bit, people are still leaving their jobs. Data from Statista estimated at least 380,000 job-to-job resignations were handed in during the last three months of 2022 in the UK.

This mass exodus of workers put pressure on employers to rethink their policies and culture. Now, many companies are offering more flexible schedules, better benefits, and opportunities for professional development to keep employees from jumping ship.

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The Great Reset

Coined by the World Economic Forum, “The Great Reset” involves the sweeping changes happening across industries and economies in response to the pandemic. The pandemic exposed many of the flaws and inequities in our economic system, and “The Great Reset” is a call for a more sustainable and inclusive model. While the campaign kicked off in 2020 with a video from the then Prince of Wales Charles, you still may hear this term from time to time.

Within work, “The Great Reset” is reimagining what work looks like. Remote work, hybrid models, and corporate commitments to sustainability are becoming more common, and companies are focusing on creating a more diverse and equitable workforce.

Quiet Quitting

Of all the workplace buzz terms, “quiet quitting” is the most well-known. Believe it or not, it doesn’t mean actually leaving your job. Quiet quitting means doing your job, and nothing more. No more working overtime or checking emails after office hours. The term went viral on TikTok after creator @Zaidleppin posted a video stating that quiet quitting means that your life shouldn’t be about your work.

For many in the workplace, especially Gen Z employees – quiet quitting is about dispelling the concept of ‘hustle culture.’ During the pandemic, many employees realised that having a proper work/life balance was more important than quickly climbing that corporate ladder.

TikTok creator @Zaidleppin’s video on what quiet quitting involves went viral and ignited a debate that is still raging today.

Conscious Quitting

“Conscious quitting” is a deliberate approach – to leaving a job because your values don’t line up with your employers. Consciously quitting a job could involve a company’s sustainability record or policies around diversity and inclusion. The labor shortages post-pandemic means that employees don’t have to silently disagree with their company, you could easily find a new role with a company with a mission that aligns more with yours.

While conscious quitting is popular with Gen Z employees, many are thinking about jumping ship because of company values and ethics. The 2023 Net Positive Barometer found that two in three employees in the UK want to work for a company that has a positive impact on the world. 

Consciously quitting a job is challenging as it requires a vast amount of self-awareness and courage to make a change. On the flip side though, it can be incredibly rewarding, leading to new opportunities and a sense of purpose.

Career Cushioning

A person is at their computer in their home office smiling at the screen with a cup of coffee or tea.
Career cushioning involves learning new skills and taking steps to make you more comfortable should you need to look for a new job. (Getty Images)

A newer entry to the database of workplace buzz terms, “career cushioning” is protecting yourself against future job loss or economic downturns. It involves building a safety net of skills, connections, and savings that can help you weather any career setbacks.

For those that have been worried about their job security, you’ve probably already engaged in career cushioning in some way. If you’ve worked on your own development by learning new skills or started saving a bit of extra money, you have cushioned your career. It’s a great strategy and method to feel more secure in navigating an economic downturn and a job market.

These are just a handful of some of the workplace terms you’ve heard. Others include “Zoom fatigue,” “act your wage” and “resenteeism.” There is no doubt that there will be new buzzwords in the next year that reflect the continuing shifts in the way we work. By staying up to date with the trends within work, you’ll find it easier to navigate the changing world of work with more confidence and purpose.

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