Downshifting refers to social behaviours whereby individuals reduce the responsibility and complexity in their lives in order to achieve a better quality of existence. In a workplace context, downshifting attempts to find a more appropriate and sustainable work-life balance, often in order to improve family relationships, reduce stress and generally reduce the level of intrusion of the working life into the family life.
There are environmental benefits to downshifting as well, in that downshifting typically results in lower salaries and therefore less purchasing power. Those who downshift may also develop more self-reflective attitudes that help them mitigate their effect on the environment and reduce their use of resources. Many who downshift their careers may also stop commuting in order to work locally, which has two clear benefits: it reduces the environmental impact of their commute and helps contribute to the local economy.
Downshifting can be considered a more gentle form of simple living, but downshifting focuses on improving the existing situation whereas those who attempt simple living generally adopt specific rules or criteria to make their life less complex.
Downshifting is growing in popularity in industrialised societies where a strong focus on materialism and sustained downward pressure at work, in addition to growing awareness of alternative lifestyles, has made people more reflective and motivated to downshift.