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Quitting quietly seems like a strange terminology, as it has nothing to do with actually giving up your job for greener pastures. Many argue that quiet quitting does not exist, as it simply refers to employees doing their assigned work during their typical work day. What they don’t do is take on extra duties or participate in extracurricular activities at work. It’s about rejecting the idea that work should take over your life.
And while the buzzy phrase has seemingly been replaced with quick stop (for now), what we shouldn’t ignore is the real reason these terms were coined in the first place.
As a leadership consultant and executive coach, I’ve had many clients struggle to define the boundaries between work and home before feeling like it was all too much. They’re not sure when or how to say “no” to phone calls, emails, and messages after they’re officially off the clock. They are overworked, overwhelmed, stressed, burned out and fed up with the culture of work to exhaustion to survive. While many of them may seem to be heading in the direction of the quiet stop trend, what are they? For real doing is saying no to a burnout. As their advisor and coach, I fully support their decisions to do just that.
Related: Silent shutdowns divide the workforce. Here’s how to bring everyone back together.
Tackling the root cause of the so-called “quiet stopping”
Rather than trying to keep up with the latest workplace trends that are spreading across social media, perhaps leaders should stop to wonder why these trends started in the first place. Why is it considered unacceptable for employees to turn down additional, often unwanted, tasks outside of their job description? Have we placed too much value on employees who work long, stressful days with little free time or time with family, and who only quit when they’re burned out?
Or are we ignoring a growing group of people who are becoming more and more involved in the work and not enjoying it because they are burned out? According to Gallupthe number of engaged employees decreased from 36% in 2020 to 32% at the beginning of 2022.
Related: 5 warning signs of burnout (and how to respond)
Why are employees tired of working themselves to exhaustion?
The research is clear: burnout and stress levels have increased significantly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. In fact, by January 2022, the American Psychological Association (APA) said: “Burnout and stress are unprecedented in all occupations.”
“From longer work hours to increased demands at home, the Covid-19 pandemic introduced new stressors into nearly every area of life,” the APA said. “As the world enters the third year of the pandemic, these stressors have become intractable and indeterminate, increasing the risk of burnout for everyone.”
If the pandemic has pushed many workers into a state of burnout, it makes sense that they would try to resist the daily grind of just doing what they do obliged To do. They no longer see their workplace as a place to thrive and instead feel unmotivated and disengaged.
This may in part be related to the shift to a work-from-home culture, which has contributed to many employees working significantly longer hours, having difficulty switching off and experiencing a lack of work-life boundaries. So many employees spend more than 8 hours a day in front of their computers with just over 15 minutes of break for lunch (and then eat in front of the computer), if they do have lunch at all. They are exhausted.
It is striking that this increase in burnout is significantly higher among the younger generations. Indeed’s 2021 Burnout Survey found that while 53% of millennials already felt burned out for the pandemic, this rose to 59% in 2021. Gen Z had a similar increase.
Together, these generations are consistently happy to throw away the old rulebook of how things were done in the past to build a brighter future. They campaign to protect our environment, improve equality and justice and better living and working conditions. They generally disagree that all work and no play is a recipe for a thriving life. This generation wants to do meaningful work, but enjoying life outside of work is essential for them too.
The World Health Organization states burnout is a syndrome that results from workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Three factors define it, they say: feelings of depleted energy, greater mental distance from a job, and decreased professional effectiveness.
Related: 8 fire-safe tips to prevent business burnout
Those in leadership positions need to transform the work culture so that their employees feel engaged, engaged and connected to their work. Having unengaged or burnt-out employees on your team will disrupt team cohesion and negatively impact everyone. When someone is barely working and others are working hard, it quickly becomes apparent and affects the dynamics of the team. That is why investing in improving the culture for everyone is so important.
How to start?
There are three main components you can work on to improve that will ultimately benefit your business and team: value, wellbeing and communication.
1. Make your staff feel valued
Make sure your employees know that their presence, skills and work are needed and valued. Recognizing them goes a long way in achieving this. Companies that make employee recognition a priority have employees who are 56% less likely to look for a new job, a recent Gallup-Workhuman Survey found it. It can be as simple as recognizing milestones in their lives, such as anniversaries and birthdays at work, and celebrating goals or projects completed.
Perhaps looking at progression and promotion opportunities for team members or doing an end-of-the-week overview recognizing the week’s achievements and the team members who made it possible.
Or, budget permitting, perhaps an organized event: a monthly staff meeting where everyone finishes work a few hours early and has lunch or dinner together.
Related: The simple trick this CEO uses to prevent burnout
2. Invest in the well-being of your employees
It’s no secret that employee wellbeing and employee engagement go hand in hand. Gallup found involvement and well-being are reciprocal, “with each affecting the future condition of the other.”
What can you do to show that the company prioritizes and is committed to improving the well-being of its employees?
There are practical things you can do. Your company may offer an employee assistance program that members can refer to if they need support or are struggling. You can also include wellness benefits:
- A weekly massage.
- A meditation class in the office during a lunch break.
- Ability to work flexible hours
Longer term, having designated wellness leaders is a great way to keep track of what’s being done in the office to improve people’s mental health — they could even send a monthly update on the changes. Quite simply, encourage employees to leave on time and take frequent breaks.
3. Focus on connecting people to their work
Recognizing and valuing your employees’ input is an important and powerful way to increase their ownership of their work. Create an open forum where employees can share ideas about the status of their work and projects, discuss innovative ideas that would get them excited in the future, or maybe even find creative solutions to processes that aren’t working.
Hear what your employees are saying and listen to their ideas. Not only do they feel valued, but they also feel more connected to their work. Stimulate involvement and participation as much as possible.
Engaged employees and healthy workplaces are a byproduct of exceptional leaders who create an environment for growth without the expectation that their team will work to their limits.