2022 saw a new term rapidly enter the lexicon of HR managers everywhere, “quiet quitting”. The term refers to a trend where, instead of formally resigning, workers are coming to work but only just meeting the absolute minimum requirements to keep their jobs. The trend has inspired a number of conversations around the importance of work/life balance compared with the needs of an effective business.
Now it’s clear quiet quitting isn’t going away and business leaders need to find different tactics to meet both business and employee needs.
The idea of the recently acknowledged trend of quiet quitting is not really new at all. Some people have been coming to work and doing the bare minimum since work has existed. It has, however, become a lot more noticeable and, more important, socially acceptable since the pandemic. It’s therefore unsurprising that a 2023 Gallup report states that as few as 32% of employees now class themselves as engaged at work.
As any business leader knows, workers who are only barely fulfilling the terms of their contracts in the least productive ways can be detrimental to corporate culture and bottom line, and “quiet quitting” therefore does need to be addressed.
The time spent at home with families during the pandemic has awakened many employees to what work/life balance could be like with a little more life and a little less work. Rather than being the habit it had been before the pandemic, the return to work and the daily commute now seemed unnecessary and expensive. In instances where employees were forced to return to the office, resentment built and, without meaningful communication and explanation from management, began to fester.
At its core, therefore, quiet quitting is not laziness. It’s a direct response to a perception that employees are being used and that management does not really care about their needs, desires or hopes. If they don’t care about me, why should I care about my job?
What can be done?
- Reward employees adequately
The first step toward making an employee feel valued is to actually value them. Resources on the internet make it extremely easy for employees to see what other companies are paying for similar roles and if they aren’t earning the same, they will feel undervalued. Paying a good salary also leads to better employee retention, which lowers your recruitment and training costs and in businesses with small skill pools can ensure you stay ahead of the game. Your accountant will be able to assist you to determine just what you can afford to pay for each role, and how best to structure benefits to get the most from taxes.
- Take care of employee mental health
Those who engage in quiet quitting often state that their mental health was a critical reason why they did so. Proactively addressing your employees’ mental health needs is therefore a priority if you want them to be engaged at work.
It is essential that you make sure work/life boundaries are a built-in aspect of any job. Simple rules like preventing employees from calling each other after hours, or keeping lunch hours free for lunch, will go a long way toward ensuring your employees don’t have to draw those lines themselves.
Other ideas include matching overtime with additional time off or giving employees their child’s birthday as paid leave. Your accountant will be able to help you find funds to develop a wellness program that could include reduced gym fees or tickets to theatre, concerts or sports events.
- Recognise hard work
Feeling underappreciated is a large part of why people quiet quit. Working hard and having no one notice leads to people feeling unrecognised and unimportant. Make sure you acknowledge and visibly reward those employees who do work hard. With the right motivation it could even encourage others to step up as well.
- Listen to your employees
The ultimate reason for quiet quitting is the disconnect between management and staff. It is essential for team leaders to get to know their staff as human beings, to genuinely engage and listen and understand the challenges in their lives. People who view their bosses as caring human beings rather than faceless authority figures are much more likely to work harder to avoid disappointing their team. If they are then also adequately rewarded for doing so, this can lead to a strong positive spiral of effort.