Is Quiet Quitting Silently Killing Your Business?


Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for Management pros

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Quiet quitting is a buzz term that’s popping up all over social media, but it’s something of a misnomer, as it actually refers to asserting healthy work boundaries.

Article 3 Minutes
Is Quiet Quitting Silently Killing Your Business?

The term ‘quiet quitting’ suddenly seems to be everywhere, with 4.6 million views on TikTok alone. At first glance, it seems to have negative connotations, suggesting employees aren’t carrying out their responsibilities, but defendants of the standpoint take a different view.

Instead of neglecting their duties, fans of the movement suggest it’s a shift away from hustle culture and an attempt to reassert healthy boundaries. So, what does this mean for management teams if their employees are clocking off on time and muting Slack outside of office hours?

Post-pandemic work culture

The coronavirus pandemic brought about an abrupt reevaluation of global working culture in a way that nobody could have predicted. Practices that have been the accepted norm for decades were suddenly disrupted and priorities changed, with many staff looking at what their jobs do for them and their families, as opposed to the other way round.

What this looks like in reality is working contracted hours and no more, not taking work home and never checking emails in the evenings or at weekends. While ‘quitting’ is in the title, the practice is in fact far distinct from that on the ground and something management shouldn’t be penalizing.

Upending the system

The main problem with employees claiming back their free time and placing distinct markers between work and play is that the system isn’t set up to work well under these circumstances. In fact, technological advances and expectations for workers to go above and beyond their core duties have eroded the work-life balance for so long, following a job description to the letter is now seen as ‘quitting’.

If this new trend is slowly killing your business, then there’s a problem with your model and staff are likely to feel not properly compensated for their work, which can lead to burnout and disengagement. A work contract is a formal transaction between an employer and a member of staff and should be transparent in its expectations.

Pragmatic working

While it’s important management isn’t pushing employees into always being on, it’s also vital they understand staff lifestyles and other commitments. Remote working capabilities and flexible arrangements can lead to better productivity and adjustments around family life, which can mean working unconventional hours work better for some.

This needs to be a choice, however, and if an email is sent in the evening because it suits one member of staff, another employee mustn’t feel they must respond immediately. Setting up boundaries is necessary in an always-on world, but not everyone’s optimum working hours will be the same.

Breaking the vicious cycle

Working long hours has long been confused with being productive and many offices are now faced with a culture that rewards time clocked up as opposed to tasks completed. A better work-life balance is found to lead to improved mental health and can increase productivity even if time in the office is reduced.

In the UK, a national pilot is underway to establish how a four-day week could affect productivity and morale. Initial reports seem to be positive, with some participants deciding to continue with the trial, but it will take time to establish whether revenue and staff contentment are maintained, improved or in decline as a result.

Protecting against burnout

Pushing employees to work longer and harder than they’re contractually obliged to can lead to burnout. This can mean other staff are then needed to step in to carry out their core tasks, putting extra pressure on resources and upending the stability in a team. Preventing it in the first place is beneficial for everyone involved.

Since 2019, burnout has been recognized as an ‘occupational phenomenon’ by the World Health Organization and defined as “a syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It reduces an individual’s professional efficacy and undermines their confidence in the company they work for.

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