A lack of work-life balance is contributing to quiet quitting, explains Charlotte Boffey
Everyone is talking about “quiet quitting”, and our research suggests it has been in the UK since the start of the year.
Employees fed up with “hustle culture” have taken to social media to spread the virtue of the practice, while employers and others have decried it. Some of this disagreement is genuine, and some stems from the practice’s rather hazy definition.
Quiet quitting essentially refers to the practice of checking out at work – doing the bare minimum to not get fired while rejecting discretionary effort. New ideas and projects are not asked for; new challenges are actively rejected. It originated in a series of TikTok videos but builds on the wider anti-work movement, which the pandemic has spawned among younger generations.
Quiet quitting is not just finishing your tasks and going home on time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an employee who can manage their time well and set boundaries that let them maintain a good work-life balance.
Indeed, it’s a lack of work-life balance that seems to have birthed this wave of quiet quitting.
One “quiet-quitter” on Reddit’s “antiwork” forum said he was being pressured into doing 55-hour weeks, made to feel guilty for taking annual leave, and didn’t want to give up on so much time with his young family.
“My daughter deserves to have her dad, and my wife her husband. I work to live, I don’t live to work,” he wrote.
Our research backs the idea that many young workers are feeling somewhat burnt out after the pandemic and are subsequently placing less importance on work. That makes the UK workplace a tinderbox for quiet quitting.
Our 2022 Wellness at Work survey found over half (51 per cent) of young full-time workers said the pandemic had “decreased the importance I place on my career.” Almost two-thirds of all British workers (63 per cent) said they had recently experienced burnout; just 49 per cent thought their work-life balance was “good”.
It’s easy to see why: The pandemic brought the workplace into the home, and our smartphones mean many of us struggle to set proper boundaries with work, responding to emails at all hours.
If you’re worried your workplace might start to feature some quiet quitters, try to make sure there isn’t too much work to go around. If one colleague seems to always be burning the midnight oil, check they are not being given too much work – or that they have a good strategy to manage their work well. Those extra hours of work won’t be worth it if you or your colleague ends up burnt out. You want to be engaged with the company’s mission and eager for new opportunities to contribute to it.
How Can Your Executive Boost Engagement?
Conduct some research into how employees are feeling with anonymised surveys.
Have regular one-on-one meetings with direct reports
Ensure your executive talks to their direct reports about how things are going, what they want in their career and possible opportunities for advancement down the road. Their career is a journey with exciting stops along the way, not an end-state.
This will be harder but is especially key with remote workers, who may not feel like part of the mission. Make sure they are setting good boundaries and not letting their work life slip into their home life.