Quiet Quitting: What Does The HR Industry Think?

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In recent years, a so-called ‘t-idle wave’ has been taking the HR industry by storm. They call it quiet quitting. But what exactly does it mean? Is it laziness or self-preservation that’s driving the dramatically named ‘Great Resignation’? Here, we discuss what the HR industry can learn from quiet quitting in order to make employee success part of your company’s culture.

What is ‘quiet quitting’?

Despite the name, quiet quitting does not usually involve the actual ending of a job. Instead, it refers to the practice of only fulfilling the contractual obligations of a role. This means that employees do the bare minimum rather than going above and beyond for the business’ needs.

That means an employee may choose to log on exactly at 9am and log off exactly at 5pm, regardless of whether they’re halfway through a task or have more work to do. In addition, they will avoid tasks that are not specified in their job description.

For instance, even if there is more work to be done, an employee who has ‘quiet quit’ may choose to leave unfinished work for the next day, using a visual voicemail to catch any calls they may receive, rather than staying on to answer themselves.

This practice began as a trend on social media. But over the last couple of years, it has grown into a larger movement as people – particularly younger staff – prioritize mental health and wellbeing over burnout and overworking.

In fact, a Gallup report states that up to 50% of US employees could be ‘quiet quitters’.

How is quiet quitting affecting businesses?

So, how is quiet quitting really affecting businesses around the world? From what you read in magazines and blogs, quiet quitting is heralded to be the end of work as we know it.

After all, how many times have you heard people say “Nobody wants to work anymore”? But is it really as serious as that?

Well, the truth may not be so black and white.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2022 report shows that a mere 21% of employees are engaged at work. Besides leading to negative emotions, the analysis also found a strong link between staff engagement performance outcomes, including productivity and profitability.

But with many employees considering relocating or even changing careers, is it worth your HR team’s efforts in improving employee engagement to lower the number of quiet quitters? It certainly seems clear that taking your employees’ happiness and well-being into consideration can help drive engagement and, in turn, boost business. But let’s dive deeper into the issue.

Quiet quitting: bad news?

Many businesses, particularly HR departments, are of the opinion that quiet quitting is a damaging and costly concept. Not only does it decrease income, but it can also increase unplanned absences and result in poor quality of work.

The pandemic arguably kickstarted the movement. With so many employees being relegated to remote work, a fall in productivity is hardly surprising.

However, what’s interesting is the enduring nature of this phenomenon. Though there is still a significant portion of the workforce choosing to work from home, more and more staff are returning to the office. So why has this movement of quiet quitting persisted or, in some cases, become even more prevalent?

The answer is still somewhat unclear. It could be due to what experts are dubbing a ‘Covid hangover’. That is, the huge disruption caused to people’s lives by the pandemic has not yet been fully settled.

Other analysts say that the pandemic has changed people’s priorities. When a global event of that magnitude takes place, things like work deadlines and projects seem less important, and people ‘quiet quit’ as a result.

Whatever the cause, businesses and HR teams understandably remain concerned that the movement of quiet quitting will continue to grow. It could even cause bigger hits to income and productivity than those we’ve already seen.

But with legislation already in place that puts into law an employee’s right to disconnect from their work, it seems the emphasis on work-life balance is here to stay.

A new way of working

While some businesses lament the fall of ‘hustle culture’ and the competitive attitude that has always been synonymous with success, others in the HR industry are embracing this new movement. Some are even calling it a return to self-care and the prioritization of one’s own happiness.

In some ways, the pandemic has been freeing to those in the workforce who have endured a lengthy or stressful daily commute. Then there are advances in technology such as cloud app modernization and the rise of online communication software. Combined, this has meant that, for many people, the transition to working from home has been an improvement rather than a setback.

The pandemic has forced a change in perspective for a lot of people. Though it’s true that work is important, people are beginning to recognize that there are more important things in life, such as making time for one’s own pursuits and hobbies.

Quiet quitting is simply an extension or a practical application of this philosophy. It represents a move towards preserving one’s own mental health instead of overworking for the sake of a business. Rather than being a reflection of the workforce’s growing laziness, many people see it as an opportunity to celebrate self-care and create a more well-rounded lifestyle.

Final thoughts

While people may never agree on whether or not quiet quitting is damaging the HR industry or not, what is clear is that a conversation on work-life balance has been opened up by this movement and its ideologies.

It’s difficult to deny that quiet quitting has brought to light some important issues in today’s workforce. Plus, regardless of whether or not it’s a good idea, in the end, it’s clear that HR professionals will have a lot to consider in the future.

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