When the phrase ‘quiet quitting’ started popping up amid the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and the media were trying to understand why some workers seemed to be putting in less effort than expected and only doing the minimum required.
Susanne Lund, CEO at Airtame explains that while many factors can influence this behavior, a common refrain from workers today is that many employers deploy rigid structures that contradict modern expectations for flexibility, affecting both engagement and company culture. Whether an individual’s quiet quitting is driven by mandatory attendance policies or reluctance to embrace new tools and technologies, the effects on a business’ efficiency and bottom line can be significant.
Quiet Quitting Isn’t a Fad
The tendency of some workers to become disillusioned by their workplace culture or the work itself is not a new phenomenon, but its impact today may be greater than any time in modern history. In Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report, the research firm found that workers who have disengaged from work and lack supportive bonds make up nearly 60 percent of the workforce, costing the global economy up to nine percent of GDP, or roughly $8.8 trillion.
The same study found 44 percent of employees reported feeling stress during “a lot” of the previous day, while purporting that employee engagement has 3.8 times greater influence on employee stress as work location. Even more stark was the self-reported solution: 41 percent named “engagement or culture” as the most significant change that would improve worker appreciation and engagement, beating out “pay and benefits” at 28 percent. This follows the 2022 American Opportunity Survey from McKinsey that revealed 87 percent of workers take the opportunity to work remotely at least one day a week when offered, reaching industries as varied as finance, media production, information technology, engineering, social services, educational instruction and healthcare.
These findings support the idea that workers see more benefit than harm from remote work, but don’t help provide a specific solution to improve engagement among flexible workers. Based on our collective experiences, there appears to be one clear tactic to address these challenges in a way that supports all parties’ end goals, and it relies on embracing technology.
Technology is a Catalyst for Community
For many workers and some employers, the rapid need for alternate work arrangements during the COVID-19 pandemic proved that traditional 9-5 office schedules aren’t the only way to operate, or even necessarily the most efficient or productive. Companies of all kinds and all sizes rushed to implement policies and tools to enable remote work in order to protect employees’ health and ensure reliable staffing and operations, with workers often expected to maintain performance levels and adjust to new remote procedures with little guidance.
The technologies being deployed to support this transition vary widely from home office equipment and cloud-based computing solutions to new virtual collaboration and in-office meeting room tools. Regardless of the specific solutions, many leaders and employees noticed a disparity in meeting experiences and outcomes between in-office and remote attendees, signaling a need to improve meeting equity so each individual enjoys the same level of engagement and participation regardless of location or work arrangement.
Equally important was the need for companies to adopt user-friendly technology solutions in-office to support the great return. When workers began returning to in-person work in earnest, some found that the workflows and processes they used at home conflicted with the tools provided in conference rooms, essentially requiring them to use different procedures when working from each location, hindering flexibility and morale.
The pace of technology moves quickly, however, and early adopters have already succeeded at improving experiences by streamlining meeting simplicity with BYOM (Bring Your Own Meeting) spaces, which allow workers to easily host meetings from their own devices while leveraging the full power of the room’s professional-grade audio and video components.
Refusing to Adapt Can Cost Top Talent
While there are some big-name corporations attempting to rescind flexible work policies and plenty of public discussion about who gets to work remotely, what’s obvious is the leverage these shifts can provide for workers when negotiating contracts or pushing for policy changes. In a competitive sense, an applicant choosing between two positions may have incentive to choose the more flexible role or company, even if the more rigid one offers better pay.
The same is true for existing employees who lean into quiet quitting; each day they feel unsupported and disengaged is another day of lost productivity, in addition to eventually causing some to truly quit. Additionally, as the labor market tightens, individuals with highly specialized or valuable skills can demand specific conditions or benefits, including workplace flexibility or more supportive in-office technology infrastructure.
If workers prove they can maintain productivity regardless of location, employers who support them with new tools and are open to discussions about company culture can limit or eliminate the threat of quiet quitting. By being responsive to their needs and expectations, even when compromises are required from both sides, leaders can help increase engagement of their workers and reinvigorate the mutual respect necessary to retain a passionate workforce.