Ssshh, I’m not really here: How to combat ‘quiet quitting’

Quiet quitting, work to rule, doing the bare minimum – whatever you want to call it, it’s a notion that is gaining momentum. Employers have a duty to ward against it – not just for business – but for health and happiness generally.

It’s a sunny day, there’s a park, a bubble machine, and a soft voice describing the concept of ‘quiet quitting’. This viral Tik Tok video is just one in a myriad of social media offerings that is expounding the notion of “not outright quitting your job but quitting going above and beyond”. It’s appealing in some respects. It looks relaxing and stress free. Gentle even. So many of the thousands of comments on the video are celebrating this subtle protest.

But it’s not appealing really – to be so disengaged. Not for companies certainly, but also not for employees. Going above and beyond used to be good. It still is good. It can lead to growth and fuel ambition. It can give a job meaning and be the thing that makes work stand out. Employers need to inspire their team and provide legitimate routes up the career ladder so that effort and great work are rewarded and celebrated.

Rejecting hustle culture

People don’t tend to start a job in a negative headspace. It takes some time of being repeatedly overworked and undervalued before someone might choose to embark on quiet quitting. So, the simple answer is to value and properly compensate staff. The rise of the flexible hybrid work model has undoubtedly gone a long way to offer people a better work-life balance but it needs to be underpinned by a company culture that excites and engages staff, and celebrates everyone’s successes, and this takes careful planning. As Rahul Chari, founder and CTO of PhonePe says, a long-term view is needed to ensure staff stay motivated. “Work-life balance is not a modern myth,” he adds.

Trust and control

In a LinkedIn essay, Arianna Huffington argues that, post-Covid, “we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to redefine how we work and live”. She adds: “Let’s not settle on quiet quitting”. Employees are more aware of their rights, and what it takes to do a job well, than ever before and the job market is full of opportunities to take up roles that offer flexible working, providing constant temptation and hope. It’s now a clear ‘no’ to pointless presenteeism. And a ‘no’ to rigid time rules.

An IWG survey revealed that almost half of all office workers would leave their jobs if asked to go back to the office five days a week, while nearly three quarters said they would prefer the option of hybrid working to a 10% pay rise, if they were offered the choice.

People want to be trusted to control and manage their own lives. For some, this translates into the flexibility of not having to commute to the office on certain days and using those hours to work from home or a flexspace close to their home, while for others it is choosing work hours which may be different from the rest of the team. No one really thrives off a career that they’re not engaged in, opting out in a quiet protest is a last resort.

Huffington, who vehemently rejects quiet quitting, goes on to write that she built her business on the rejection of hustle culture, but still expects people to go the extra mile. “Going above and beyond doesn’t have to mean allowing ourselves to be burned out,” she writes. “Pushing ourselves beyond the bare minimum is how we grow, evolve and expand our possibilities.”

Re-education

Burn out culture can be hard to leave behind after so many years of habit. The ‘always on’ notion of Slack, WhatsApp and weekend emails needs to be unlearned proactively. Companies can establish an out of hours communication policy to help with this. The Right to Disconnect, a motion currently being debated in Australia, has already become legislation in some countries, including France and Portugal. It states that employers should have a “positive duty” to ensure that workers are able to turn off their phones after hours. Shared calendars and a notion of respecting them (which needs to come from the top) can also combat people being contacted on days off, or having multiple meetings booked for the same time.

This has to be outweighed by other things that can make a job appealing – setting up the ‘worth-it equation’, as it has been dubbed. The term essentially describes what people want from work versus what they are willing to give in return, and it is extremely relevant when thinking about mitigating the likelihood of employees quiet quitting.

Hybrid working can bring numerous incentives into the ‘worth-it equation, including the opportunity for longer periods of travel, the ability to live in another place entirely, or simply having the time to pick children up from school and other everyday flexibilities.

They’re not unreasonable asks, but they can have a positive effect on people’s lives. And as we explore this ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’, as Huffington calls it, it becomes increasingly clear that people are happier when there is more to their life than work, and when they feel that, work becomes a lot better too.

Read more to find out how hybrid working can help your people stay engaged and inspired.

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