Five aspects of ‘quiet quitting’ HR leaders need to take note of

CHIEF OF STAFF FIVE: The term “quiet quitting” was coined way back in 2009, but it has recently become a hot button issue following a outpouring of themed content on social media, including video sharing platform TikTok.

For employers, this new trend is a source of frustration, with some expressing concern that their employees are slacking off. Believers however argue that “quiet quitting” is not about avoiding work, but rather, not avoiding a meaningful life outside of work.

This new narrative is a result of millennials and Generation Z are redefining the workplace, away from the hustle culture and unpaid labour of their parents' generation, as they do not see financial gains nor is it worth it for their mental wellbeing.

1. Is it really a problem?

Sarah O’Connor of the Financial Times doesn’t think “quiet quitting” is a problem, arguing that if staff turn up every day to do exactly what is asked of them, then they aren’t “quiet quitting”, they’re simply working.

Some people may be driven by personal reasons to give more, but if everyone is expected to do that, then by definition it isn’t “above and beyond” anymore, she said.

“The ‘quiet quitting’ kerfuffle speaks to an unhealthy understanding of the relationship between companies and their staff,” O’Connor said.

She said that companies that have built their business model on people constantly going above and beyond are on dangerous ground.

For example, UK-based train company Avanti West Coast, which fell apart when staff stopped voluntarily working extra shifts on their days off, she said.

2. A defence mechanism against burnout

A lack of passion outside the workplace and not enough time for rest often leads to burnout, leaving employees to pay a hefty price for it.

For most people, burnout may take somewhere between a year to several years to recover from, which is perhaps why as of 2019, the World Health Organisation has classified burnout as an official syndrome.

Employee sentiment reflects this. One in three Asian employees will forgo pay increases to work flexibly, closely followed by wellbeing benefits.

Burnout is a net loss for both employers and employees. Companies that restructure their operations to not rely on the goodwill of their employees will be more sustainable.

3. Quiet quitting is a sign of bigger issues

“Quit quitting” could also indicate a bigger issue on how work is structured today.

Forty-five percent of employees in Southeast Asia indicated that they intend to leave their jobs in the next 12 months, according to an Ernst & Young (EY) study published in July.

In truth, the “quiet quitting” phenomenon and the “great resignation” likely stem from the same reason, a general dissatisfaction and restlessness.

4. Power in the hands on employees

The new generation of workers, having been raised in an era of activism are well versed in the power of collective action.

This effect can be the new workforce. In response, experts are suggesting that HRs keep up with employee expectations by taking a more holistic approach to the types of benefits provided.

5. Benefits for both employers and staff

Research has shown that happy employees are more productive and engaged, even protecting them against feeling distracted or not wanting to be present.

Happier employees are friendlier and open, creating a more enjoyable workplace and fostering teamwork. This, in turn, improves workplace loyalty, reducing turnover and increasing job performance.

A smart HR will take advantage of these shifting sentiments to focus on opportunities for employees to learn and grow in the company.

Workplaces that are structured around giving employees a life outside of work may in truth, gain greater productivity in the long run and lead to higher profits.

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