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Re-Framing Quiet Quitting: An Opportunity for Employers to Improve the Workplace

Learn how to prevent quiet quitting.

Operational efficiency, cost reduction, and employee retention have all been top of mind for employers recently. Yet, many employers are still unaware of the dangers of quiet quitting. While quiet quitting won't affect your employee headcount, it will have a dramatic effect on production, performance, and other important elements of business success. 

Employers understand that employee engagement is essential for business success. However, without support from their employers, many employees feel burned out and disengaged. Employee wellness and engagement are directly connected. 

When employees struggle mentally or physically, it's difficult for them to stay engaged at work. For example, employees struggling with financial issues can't simply turn off those worries when they enter the workplace. 

Similarly, when employees disengage at work, it can affect other areas of their lives. By addressing employee well-being on an individual level that recognizes whole-person wellness, employers are more likely to find effective ways to counteract the disengagement that leads to quiet quitting.

Let’s go over what is quiet quitting and ways to prevent it. 

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting doesn't mean that employees are leaving their positions. It means they're not putting substantial effort into a job role for an unappreciative employer. 

Essentially, quiet quitters hold onto their position but only do the bare minimum. They step back from their emotional investment in the company and don't engage with projects. 

Although the viral term quiet quitting and related TikTok videos are new, employee disengagement and the associated actions of it are not. Gallup estimates that at least 50% of the US workforce are quiet quitters. Unfortunately, it's a trend that can have long-term impacts on both businesses and employees.

Why Are Employees Quiet Quitting?

While social media makes quiet quitting seem like a new concept with a different goal, it's a direct reflection of ongoing job satisfaction. Employees are quiet quitting for many of the same reasons that lead to burnout and excessive turnover. 

The most common reasons for quiet quitting include: 

  • Excessive workload: Dwindling workforces and excessive employer expectations lead to increased workloads. This often leads to longer hours and increased stress. It's also a common cause of burnout.
  • Poor compensation: Seventy-one percent of employees worry that compensation has not kept up with inflation. Low pay is also a top reason employees leave a job. Quiet quitters are working to match the pay they receive instead of the pay they want.
  • Interrupted personal time: Long hours, excessive overtime, and employer expectations for employees to always be on call interrupt their personal time and disrupt work-life balance. This results in increased work-related stress and burnout. Employees can't work at top performance levels when they are always working.
  • Lack of managerial support: Feeling disrespected is the number 3 reason why employees left their jobs in 2021, along with low pay. Employees their manager doesn't support are more likely to disengage and exhibit lower performance levels.
  • Shifting or unclear expectations: When employees are unclear about their roles and responsibilities, job satisfaction can decline. Uncertainty about specific duties can undermine employee confidence and add stress.
  • Poor communication issues: From previously mentioned research, 83% of employees link job satisfaction with communication they receive from their employer. Poor communication equals low morale.
  • Mental health concerns go unaddressed: Over 80% of employees link job satisfaction with the mental health support they receive from their employer, as stated in previously mentioned research. Perhaps more importantly, 73% of employers and 81% of managers indicated they would be more likely to stay at a company that offered high-quality resources to care for their mental health. 
  • Overall feeling that employer doesn't care for employee well-being: Fewer than one in four US employees feel strongly that their organization cares about their well-being. Employees who strongly agree that their employer cares about their overall well-being are 69% less likely to search for a new job, 71% less likely to report burnout, and three times more likely to be engaged at work.

The Role of Mental Health in Employee Engagement

According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 87% of employees think actions from their employer would help their mental health. Our own Modern Health research revealed that 74% of employees want their employer to care about their mental health, but only 53% believe their employer does. 

Gallup research has revealed that 40% of US workers report that their job negatively impacts their mental health. Further research revealed that engaged employees were five times more likely to say later that their job positively impacted their mental health. Employers can directly impact employee engagement by investing in mental health benefits.

Effects of Quiet Quitting on Your Organization

Theoretically, employees who make an active choice to disengage are only impacting their own future. However, employees are an organization's best asset. Engaged employees contribute to positive company culture, align goals with organizational goals, and add to company innovation. 

Here are the effects if they quiet quit. 

Disengagement and Dissatisfaction

Disengagement and job dissatisfaction leads to lower levels of productivity and performance. Disengaged employees are absent more often and unlikely to contribute to teamwork. Furthermore, disengagement and job dissatisfaction are directly related to employee turnover. 

Limited Career Growth

Employees who put in the minimum effort required by their job roles are unlikely to learn more about the company and work toward advancement. This directly impacts employee advancement, further contributing to job dissatisfaction and engagement. 

It also impacts the company because internal advancement can help organizations prepare candidates for supervisory roles in the future. When employees are disinterested, companies recruit from outside the company, which may yield inferior results.

Possible Team Conflict

When an employee does the least amount of work possible, other employees pick up the slack. This can lead to serious conflicts concerning team members’ responsibilities, resulting in slow productivity.

Low Workplace Morale

Workplace culture directly impacts employee engagement. Employees are more likely to be engaged in a positive environment. 

However, disengaged employees are often absent from work and produce little effort when present, leading to heavier workloads for other employees. Resulting burnout can lead to company-wide decreased morale.

Decreased Output

Engaged employees desire to advance in the workplace and work toward company goals. Quiet quitters feel underappreciated and disrespected by their employers. 

In the face of an unchanging workplace, employees disengage to protect their well-being. One of the most measurable signs of quiet quitting is low productivity.

How to Prevent Employee Disengagement

Preventing employee disengagement is essential to combat quiet quitting. You can avoid the damaging effects of quiet quitting by taking steps to address the causes of employee disengagement. Prevent it with these actions: 

  • Provide proper compensation: Employee compensation comes in many forms. Consider how employee salaries compare to industry standards. Take the time to learn about the benefits most likely to meet the needs of your employees and highly desired benefits.
  • Listen to your employees and engage in their experiences: Cultivating relationships with employees and gathering feedback can give you more insight into the benefits most likely to meet their needs. Actively engaging with employees at all levels helps to build a sense of belonging and a culture of inclusivity.
  • Maintain boundaries and avoid intrusions during personal time: When employees have to be available during off-hours or vacation, they're never allowed to fully relax. Avoid contacting employees when they're off the clock. 
  • Be clear about growth opportunities: A visible path for growth within an organization provides employees with a reason to align personal career goals with company goals. Furthermore, advancement opportunities engage employees with learning opportunities and challenges. 
  • Identify employee recognition strategies and implement them: Recognition helps employees see that their company values their contributions. When employees feel rewarded, they feel ownership of their successes and are more likely to want to repeat these actions.
  • Build relationships between employees and employers: When employers develop relationships with employees, they can empathize with different workplace situations. This knowledge can improve task delegation and promotion of employee strength.
  • Keep an eye on mood and behavior: Behavioral changes are closely linked to mental health. When employers can recognize changes in behavior, they are more likely to recognize situations that lead to employee discomfort or anxiety. 
  • Support employee well-being: Employee well-being includes physical, emotional, social, and spiritual health and work-life balance. By supporting individual employee well-being, employers can improve engagement and company culture.
  • Offer mental health benefits: Mental health benefits that go beyond the efforts of traditional employee assistance programs (EAPs) can improve employee well-being and help them deal with stress in and outside of the workplace. Employer-sponsored benefits help eliminate barriers to mental health care, like cost and limited provider availability. 

Quiet quitting is a significant problem for organizations and can be prevented by addressing mental health concerns. Providing mental health benefits can help employees stay engaged and improve the overall productivity and morale of the organization. Learn more about how mental health benefits can help employers eliminate the underlying causes of quiet quitting.

Gabriella Chavarin

Gabriella Chavarin is Head of Content Marketing at Modern Health, a global mental health platform that helps keep employees healthy & resilient. Previously, Gabriella worked as a Marketing Manager for a national health payer organization, and she brings a wealth of healthcare and marketing experience to the Modern Health team.