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Quiet Quitting: How Employers Can Avoid It

91% of quiet quitters say they could be motivated to work harder. Here are a few ways to prevent the phenomenon.

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The term “quiet quitting” is everywhere these days, but it’s not an entirely new concept. TikTok and social media popularized the term, which refers to a phenomenon where overwhelmed employees disengage from work and begin doing the bare minimum to get by, many times while they are actively job searching. 

Quiet quitting has received a lot of attention lately, with Kevin O’Leary from Shark Tank saying it’s a terrible way to approach a career and Ariana Huffington, CEO and Founder of Thrive Global, urging employees to set boundaries with employers instead of quiet quitting.   

Employers have often acknowledged the quiet quitter but failed to address why this phenomenon may be happening in their workforce. Are employees bored with the tasks they are assigned? Are they unengaged because of stress in their personal life? Do they feel their hard work is not acknowledged or rewarded? As quiet quitting becomes more prevalent (and easier to hide) in today’s increasingly remote workforce, employers need to examine their culture to understand how they can increase presenteeism. 

What is quiet quitting?

CBS News recently described why quiet quitting is partly a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many employees have actively chosen to prioritize their mental health or personal life over work and aren’t jumping for the chance to be put on a special project or head to the next conference. They are happy to do the work directly assigned to them but nothing above and beyond. Some of these individuals are simply burned out after the pandemic, especially in industries that were short-staffed and not compensated for the extra time they put in.  

However, some are just not interested in work being the main focus of their lives. This trend is more common among Gen Zers and younger Millennials, according to a recent ResumeBuilder.com survey. Many argue that this isn’t necessarily negative and represents a stand against “hustle” culture and unhealthy work boundaries. 

Employees who are quiet quitting will still fulfill their job duties, but there are some signs that can signal they are unhappy. For example, they may begin turning down new projects, stop volunteering to help coworkers, submit projects that are not on par with their previous work, arrive late or leave early, or lack enthusiasm and passion for their work.  

How you can avoid it

So how can your organization keep employees motivated, happy, and healthy while still respecting personal boundaries? The good news is that 91% of quiet quitters say they could be motivated to work harder. Key motivators include higher salaries and opportunities for promotion, more paid time off, better health benefits, and opportunities for recognition. 

Increase flexibility 

Increasing salaries and offering more time off is always popular among employees, but it may be hard for employers to constantly offer salary increases as budgetary needs can change, especially during times of economic turndown. Increased flexibility is a free benefit that more employees are looking for in an employer. Flexibility can come from remote work, job sharing, or flexible scheduling in work shifts. Even when there are limits to schedule flexibility, you can still create a positive culture by offering flexible and easy-to-use benefit programs.

For example, lifestyle spending accounts (LSAs) are non-salaried allowances that employees can use according to their personal preferences. You can design programs to fit the unique needs of your workforce, which can include stipends for food and grocery, health and wellness, personal and professional development, work from home equipment, or family and child care. 

Focus on mental and physical wellness 

Workplace culture often starts from the top down. If employees don’t believe that senior staff members genuinely care about their well-being and mental health, they are less likely to feel comfortable discussing it. Creating a system of senior support and discussing the importance of mental health shows employees that their workplace has a culture of caring, which helps improve both their outlook and output. 

But keep in mind that employees are quick to recognize when mental health support is just talk. They will be looking for signs that their employer’s actions don’t match their words, so mental health and wellness support needs to go beyond verbal acknowledgment. You should first start by ensuring that employees have manageable workloads, adequate support from their managers, and work that excites and challenges them. 

From there, consider providing flexible benefits that employees can use for mental health and wellness. For example, many employers provide specialty health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) that employees can use to pay for therapy and other eligible mental health care expenses. An LSA is another option that employees can use to pay for gym memberships, yoga classes, exercise equipment, meditation courses, massages, diet consultations, and anything else that supports their health and wellness

Offer opportunities for recognition 

Recognition is a strong human need, and employees who are recognized at work are more likely to be engaged and more productive. Recognition programs should be clearly defined, and employees should understand the metrics or achievements they will be evaluated for. You can use a performance management software system to track if employees are meeting certain milestones and remind managers to recognize them. 

Traditionally, many employers have offered spot bonuses and while nice, employees may feel obligated to put them toward household items or repayment of student loans. Many leading organizations are setting aside separate stipends for loan repayment and offering employees recognition allowances that they can use on something they wouldn’t normally buy for themselves. Offering employees the flexibility to decide how they use the additional funds can go a long way in showing that you respect their individual needs. 

Have healthy conversations about career trajectory 

Regular ongoing communication with employees can help identify issues in advance. These conversations can also help identify new opportunities or solutions for bored or frustrated employees. 

Offering professional development opportunities is one way to keep employees motivated. A recent workforce survey by the Conference Board found that 58% of employees are more likely to leave an employer if they do not offer opportunities for professional development. Many employers offer professional development benefits, but they often rely on reimbursements or platforms that host a library of courses. Both of these options can be roadblocks. Employees may not have the funds to front the cost of expensive conferences, and platforms provide limited options.

Flexible professional development benefits in the form of an LSA allow employees to truly customize their learning to their unique personal preferences and learning styles. Employees can use these flexible funds to pay for industry conference tickets, MasterClass subscriptions, one-time courses, career coaching, books, and more. 

Get started today

Ultimately, quiet quitting is a sign that there's a disconnect in the employer-employee relationship. To mend this relationship, offer your employees growth opportunities, financially, professionally, and personally. To learn more about how flexible benefits can help you combat quiet quitting and provide personalized wellness support, reach out to us here or at sales@getbenepass.com

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Benepass Team

Our team is committed to sharing stories that help People teams do their jobs and empower employees to get the most out of their benefits.