Is ‘quiet quitting’ just a re-evolution of the workplace?

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Despite the name, ‘quiet quitting’ doesn’t actually involve quitting. Instead, it entails meeting the requirements of a job role but not going above and beyond.

Broken down, it is essentially the antithesis of ‘hustle culture’ – with some heralding it the antidote to burnout.

Kristi HummelKristi Hummel, Chief People Officer at Skillsoft, delves deeper into this definition stating that, “the idea of ‘quiet quitting’ is the latest example of employees changing their attitudes about work and re-evaluating what’s important. No longer are they willing to go above and beyond what’s required unless there’s a meaningful give-and-take – and this doesn’t just mean salary bumps and added vacation days.”

In fact, Skillsoft research found that individuals who switched employers within the past year cited a lack of growth and development as their top reason for doing so, taking precedence over things like better compensation. But what else can employers do to ensure workers feel appreciated and engaged in work life?

Cause and effect

Hugh Scantlebury_AqillaThe leading causes of this emerging trend aren’t crystal clear, however, the universal experience of Covid which brought about seismic change to modern workplaces, is certainly a contributing factor. Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, explains: “As many worked from home during the various lockdowns, they found themselves working longer hours as the lines between work and home life blurred. The commute from your dining room to your living room is not long enough to allow yourself to disconnect!”

“This took a toll on many and we are now seeing a new revolution spring from it – quiet quitting. Workers are ensuring that there are clear lines between work and home by logging off when working hours are up, pushing back on unrealistic expectations and only completing tasks that are within their job description.”

Alex PusenjakAlex Pusenjak, VP People & Culture at Fluent Commerce, takes a slightly different view of how the pandemic shifted attitudes and workplace culture. He notes, “the pandemic has made people question what is important and if they’ve had more time with the family, based at home, they’re going to be unwilling to sacrifice that and return to commuting to an office again.”

“It’s important for employers to provide the flexibility to work at home or come into the office if they want to,” Pusenjak advises. “It’s also about making work fun, thinking of creative ways to engage teams, providing health and wellbeing initiatives and setting an example when it comes to work/life balance. We have staff who finish their day early to coach sporting teams, volunteer and do school pick-up and drop-offs.”

Putting wellbeing first 

Jen LawrenceOne thing which is certain about this trend is that it puts mental wellbeing at the forefront. Yet, the misleading name ‘quiet quitting’ may actually do more harm than good. As Jen Lawrence, Chief People Officer at Tax Systems emphasises, “the concept that workers are ‘quitting’ when they are still completing their assigned hours and tasks can be hugely damaging to employee motivation and wellbeing. Whereas adapting working hours to enable employees to have a better work-life balance, and encouraging them to spend time with family and friends, do the school run, or take the dog for a walk during typical working hours hugely improves employee wellbeing. In fact, 60% of people who practise hybrid working report improved psychological and physical wellbeing.”

It is no surprise that proper support for staff is reflected in higher retention and a greater ability to attract new employees. As Richard Guy, Country Sales Manager UK & Ireland at Ergotron, highlights, “73% of workers will Richard Guychoose their next role based on physical health and wellbeing support and flexible technology provision.”

Employers should rethink the way they support their employees going forward, he adds. “Instead of demonising staff who are putting their needs first, employers should look at what they can do to support them in that endeavour. Businesses with a strong and positive workplace culture, in which employees are able to put healthy boundaries in place, are likely to be more productive and enjoy higher levels of engagement and staff retention.”

Looking forward

Whether ‘quiet quitting’ is a fleeting trend or a change here to stay is not entirely clear yet. However, what is clear is that employers should shift their attitudes to fit with the times as the results can only be positive.

“Curbing the ‘quiet quitting’ trend requires a mindset shift and better understanding of what drives loyalty, engagement, motivation, and fulfilment amongst today’s employees,” Skillsoft’s Hummel urges. “Managers and leadership must be acutely aware of how teams are feeling and be on the lookout for signs of ‘quiet quitting’ – which could include traditionally strong employees opting to take a backseat on projects, decreased engagement, and declining job performance.

“If detected, they can work with the specific individual to get to the root of their reason and create a plan – together – to get things back on track which could come in the form of improving work-life balance, establishing clear growth paths, and providing opportunities to transition into new roles that better align with personal goals and values.”

“To position themselves as an attractive employer, where workers will stay for the long term, organisations must adopt a people-first approach,” Ergotron’s Guy agrees. “This means embracing flexible working, to allow the new generation of workers the freedom to work in a way that suits their needs and lifestyle. Equally as important, the senior team needs to lead by example. The health-savviness of leaders can determine much more than their own physical health. It can influence the happiness and engagement of the entire workforce – in short – the bottom line,” he concludes.

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