“Quiet quitting,” a phrase recently made popular on TikTok, has dominated headlines. The idea is about scaling back on the amount work taken on and choosing to never go “above and beyond.” A 1,000-person Resume Builder survey of working Americans, of whom 25% are quiet quitting, illustrates the concept. Twenty-one percent of quiet quitters say they do the bare minimum, and 46% say they don’t want to go above and beyond what is asked of them at work.
This is a challenging puzzle for managers to solve. Leaders must determine why these typically younger employees are compelled to put in minimal effort and address the root cause of the issue rather than just the symptoms.
There’s good news and bad news for managers trying to suss all this out. The good news is that quiet quitters seem to have a common cause. Nearly 90% of surveyed workers who do less than they’re expected to are burned out. The bad news is that it’s not easy to address burnout, especially under unprecedented work circumstances.
One thing is clear. For quiet quitters, the trend is about putting meaning back into their lives. Less work means more time for purposeful activities. To help quiet quitters find meaning in their lives outside the office, employers can focus on enabling employees to find more purpose at work.
Causes behind burnout and quiet quitting are numerous
The life of an office worker has changed drastically. Remote work, a mixed-generation workforce and an emphasis on purpose make it difficult to mitigate burnout while ensuring work-life balance and camaraderie — important components of a satisfied workforce.
Hybrid work arrangements offer flexibility, but they can also have unintended consequences. People feel unable to unplug (from work) after work hours or experience loneliness and feel less connected to coworkers. These consequences weigh especially heavily for new employees and interns, who even have a negative perception of hybrid and remote work. Moreover, Older Millennials, Gen-Xers and younger Baby Boomers tend to enjoy working from home a bit more than their younger colleagues.
In the wake of the pandemic, global professionals are also rethinking work’s place in their lives and how they can better contribute to society. Younger employees increasingly place greater importance on environmental and social governance (ESG) when selecting companies to work for. Employees want to drive change or create positive impact. Performing daily, mundane tasks that don’t clearly support corporate missions or social causes can be draining to people who hold those values dear.
Addressing the causes of quiet quitting requires a multifaceted solution
Whatever the cause, and there are plenty, workers are eschewing longer hours and over-the-top projects for a stronger work-life balance and peace of mind. Employers must now address these varied causes and meet employees somewhere between no work at all and overwork: a proposal easier said than done.
Technology frees employees from the mundane
To introduce meaning back into work life, business leaders must support workers frustrated by the mundane. Technology can help. The right kind of tools automate tedious administrative tasks that employees dread, such as onboarding or purchase order reviews. Adopting technology can help employees focus on using the skills for which they were hired.
For example, imagine a marketing professional hired to develop company messaging and collateral. Now, consider how they might feel if asked to help with administrative tasks around the office, like restocking the company kitchen or managing internship-program applications. There’s a good chance they’d be frustrated at spending so much time on tasks that don’t align with their specialized skillset or with pursuing the company’s purpose.
Tools that digitize repetitive processes outside of someone’s job description frees up time for employees to focus on the work they were hired to do, the work that is meaningful to them. Even someone whose given responsibilities include those tasks can enjoy time to pursue more thoughtful activities when those jobs are digitized and automated.
Goals-oriented teams grow together toward a purpose
Technology is crucial but cannot do all the legwork when it comes to driving a purpose or mission. Leaders must also foster a mission-driven culture to engage employees during their newfound time and enable them to feel more purpose in their work. Setting guidelines around work objectives goes a long way toward building a purpose-driven workplace.
One way to establish guidelines is through objectives and key results (OKRs). Popularized by investor John Doerr, OKRs are a framework for setting “challenging, ambitious goals with measurable results.” Setting well-defined and well-communicated goals helps employees build toward a meaningful, common objective. It’s important for employees to feel like part of a winning team and earning results together toward objectives can establish a winning environment.
With transparent goals, employees feel integrated into a team moving in the same direction. Those goals can also help them understand how what they do matters, while still allowing them to log off at a reasonable time and experience a well-balanced personal and professional life.
Get loud about quiet quitting and bring meaning back into work
It’s time for employers to get loud about quiet quitting. Managers must acknowledge their teams’ concerns openly and promote office cultures that are understanding of today’s novel work climate. They must try to bring meaning back into work life by empowering their teams to do the work that matters to them. Managers who treat the quiet quitting trend as an opportunity may even emerge from the challenge with stronger, more collaborative teams.
No matter how employers address quiet quitting, they should do so transparently. Allowing employees to continue mailing it in while ignoring the causes behind frustrations is a recipe for disaster. Instead, business leaders can focus on solutions for the causes behind quiet quitting by building a mission-driven culture and bringing people purposefully to create a lasting, positive impact.