Is ‘Quiet Quitting’ a Wake-Up Call?

So-called ‘quiet quitting’ is causing a storm in business circles and online at the moment, but is it the zeitgeist that some business leaders worry about? We set out to find out…

The latest workplace trend, ‘quiet quitting’, has taken TikTok by storm – but what does it actually mean? Contrary to how it sounds, ‘quiet quitting’ doesn’t actually involve quitting at all. As expressed by Kristi Hummel, Chief People Officer at Skillsoft, “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.”

Since it was introduced, there’s been considerable contention around the term, both on social media and in boardrooms. While many hail it a reclamation of work-life balance and the antidote to burnout, others are worried it’s the latest evolution of employee disengagement, a warning sign before a worker’s physical exit out the door.

In the tech industry, for example, which has come under increasing pressure due to increased economic uncertainty and fast-growing talent shortages, many young professionals are feeling disillusioned. Recent research found that more than a third of young tech workers (35%) are unhappy in their role with over half (54%) considering a complete change of career plan.

With this in mind, we spoke to five industry experts to learn about the causes and symptoms of ‘quiet quitting’, and to get their take on how to put employee satisfaction at the heart of working life.

Quiet quitting - a wake up call for business leaders

It’s All About Work-Life Balance

Many industry experts believe that this attitude change has resulted, at least in part, from the effect of the shifting workplace arrangements brought about by the pandemic. Alex Pusenjak, VP People & Culture at Fluent Commerce, 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.”

While the pandemic has taught us to appreciate a healthy work-life balance, we have also learnt how difficult this can actually be to achieve – especially when working from home. Hugh Scantlebury, CEO and Founder of Aqilla, explains that, “as many worked from home during the various lockdowns, they found themselves working longer hours as the lines between work and home life blurred.”

He believes that this lack of boundaries has led to the new quiet quitting ‘revolution’ – expressing that, “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.”

However, this is not necessarily something that should be frowned upon. Scantlebury continues, “although employee engagement is crucial, here at Aqilla, we encourage everyone — employees, partners and customers — to maintain a healthy work-life balance.”

Jen Lawrence, Chief People Officer at Tax Systems, agrees with this sentiment, noting that, “workplaces have changed so much over the past two years that it seems old-fashioned to judge performance and engagement based on who leaves their desks at 5pm. With the majority of workers now working from home, at least part of the week, many are enjoying the flexibility and work-life balance that hybrid working offers.”

Tax Systems champions work-life balance, she adds: “We empower our people to take ownership of their time to ensure they deliver in their role to a high standard. We believe that you will get the best out of your employees if their work-life balance is respected.”

But How Can You Keep Employees Engaged?

Aside from the importance of work-life balance, it should be a priority for organisations to keep their employees engaged and motivated – and this largely comes down to the actions of managers and leadership teams.

Richard Guy, Country Sales Manager UK & Ireland at Ergotron, urges: “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. Providing the right benefits for workers is also critical. With an ever-evolving checklist of requirements, knowing what perks work for employees is key to motivation and retention.”

Skillsoft’s Hummel shares this belief, stating that “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.”

“Creating a culture that people enjoy and thrive in is key,” urges Pusenjak. “We have a lot of fun at Fluent and try to appeal to everyone’s interests, whilst providing professional development opportunities. If people receive the training they want and develop the skills they need and see a clearer career progression, they’re less likely to leave. Negative morale is contagious as it can slow down other people’s progress and motivation very quickly. It’s important to identify what your team needs holistically to be engaged and thrive.”

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.

Richard Guy
Country Sales Manager UK & Ireland at Ergotron

Employees Are Setting Boundaries – And There’s No Shame in That!

Furthermore, with 65% of tech workers reporting that they feel over-stressed at work, it is important to remember that many of these ‘quiet quitters’ are just setting reasonable boundaries and acknowledging their worth. This trend is an important wake-up call about how employers handle employee wellbeing and avoid burnout.

As Scantlebury concludes, “workers shouldn’t be framed as ‘quitters’ for doing what they are assigned to do, but employers should drive to maintain employee engagement by monitoring workloads, regulating checking in with employees and implementing policies and technologies to lift the burden where possible.”