What is quiet quitting and how does it impact business?

The Covid-19 pandemic transformed our personal and professional lives. When it came to the world of work, people started to question their careers, values, and priorities. One result of this was the beginning of the Great Resignation surge, which prompted employers to realise that they need to adapt to the changing needs of their employees if they want to keep them. And now there’s a new buzzword on the block: Quiet quitting. The workplace phenomenon that could spell further trouble for business.

What is quiet quitting?

Quiet quitting is when someone isn’t actively planning to leave their job but isn’t as engaged as they once were. This might take the shape of an employee who does the ‘bare minimum’ at work, completing the tasks listed in their job description but having no desire to go beyond that. This can be problematic at both the business and individual level.

For the individual, quiet quitting could be the result of disengagement and dissatisfaction with their work. Given that we spend so much of our time in the workplace, it’s important that our jobs make us feel fulfilled. For employers, the consequent low engagement can have a number of negative effects like reduced productivity, profitability, and high employee turnover.

But not everyone thinks that quiet quitting is entirely bad. For some, the phenomenon signals a rejection of ‘hustle culture’, i.e. the mentality that a person needs to overwork and overperform in order to be successful. With levels of employee burnout at an all time high, quiet quitting could be seen as a way to set boundaries and protect your mental health.

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Why should employers care about quiet quitting?

It goes hand in hand with low engagement

Being ‘engaged’ in the workplace refers to a combination of factors, including finding your work meaningful and rewarding, feeling enthusiastic about your job, and being invested in your company’s success. For quiet quitters, some of these elements may be missing.

According to Jim Harter, Chief Scientist of Workplace and Wellbeing at Gallup, the description of a ‘quiet quitter’ aligns with survey respondents who are classified as ‘not engaged’ at work after answering the employee Net Promoter Score question.

This spells trouble for companies because engaged employees are good for business. Research shows that engaged teams are up to 23% more profitable and 18% more productive. Furthermore, teams with low engagement see turnover rates that are 18 to 43% higher than those that are highly engaged. This is a problem because it’s expensive and time-consuming to hire and train new employees.

It could be a sign of burnout

Burnout is a state of physical and mental exhaustion. It can be the result of long-term stress in the workplace, with common symptoms including persistent tiredness, overwhelm, and feeling defeated. It goes without saying that no employee should feel this way, but only 23% of businesses are reported to have a plan in place to help spot signs of chronic stress. With this in mind, it’s worth investigating if employees showing signs of low engagement would benefit from additional support.

It’s bad for employee morale

It’s good for people to be engaged and enjoy their work. When employees have high morale, they’re more productive, creative, and innovative. They’re also more invested in the company. On the flip side, low morale can lead to subpar output, dwindling productivity, and frequent sick days. It can also be contagious, spreading to other employees across the company.

Download: How has employee loyalty developed from 2019-2021

It’s a learning opportunity

It’s the ‘quiet’ part of ‘quiet quitting’ that’s most problematic. If an employee has reached the point where they are quietly ‘fading out’ at work, it signals a dissatisfaction that should be discussed. What has caused this change? How can their experience be improved? Is this something that’s likely affecting more employees? By taking the time to listen, you can identify and address the root causes.

How to manage quiet quitting

Listen to what your employees need

The first step to tackling quiet quitting is listening to your employees. You can do this by regularly giving your staff the opportunity to provide feedback about various aspects of their work and your company. The insights you get will help you to understand how you can improve the employee experience. You can gather this feedback with yearly employee satisfaction questionnaires, more regular pulse surveys, or by using eNPS software.

By taking the initiative to start regular conversations with your staff, you might even be able to stop quiet quitting in its tracks before it begins.

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Use feedback to improve the employee experience

Once you’ve gathered feedback from employees, you should use the insights you receive to actively improve the employee experience. The possibilities are endless but could include initiatives like improving the work environment or offering more opportunities for development. By taking concrete action on feedback from employees, you’re demonstrating that you value them and care about their needs.

Offer your employees development opportunities

Nobody wants to feel like they’re stagnating or being overlooked at work. It’s important that employees feel they are developing professionally and working on tasks that challenge them. When this is missing, it can breed apathy, resentment, and a lack of engagement. Again, asking for feedback can help you to identify exactly what your employees need to feel that they are progressing and working towards their goals.

Promote employee wellbeing

As we mentioned, there are some lessons to be learned from the boom in quiet quitting. In particular, it’s essential to prioritise your employee’s wellbeing and mental health. This will involve exploring ways in which you can help your people feel happier, healthier, and valued at work.

One key focus area is facilitating a good work-life balance. Following the pandemic, this has become much more important, with people realising the value of nurturing their lives outside of work.

As an employer, you can help your staff to have a good work-life balance in a couple of different ways. The first is to try and offer flexibility when it comes to where and when employees work. Secondly, managers should lead by example, trying their best to maintain healthy boundaries between work and home.

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