Hustle culture’s been canceled. Quiet quitting is crowned queen.
Quiet quitting was one of the hottest topics in the 2022 news cycle.
There isn’t total consensus about what it means, or the impact it is having on businesses.
But the one thing everyone can agree on is that quiet quitting is the opposite of hustle.
And while this makes sirens wail in the heads of some business leaders, quiet quitting could be the unexpected boon that boosts your company’s productivity.
In this article you’re going to learn:
- The hidden drivers behind the quiet quitting phenomenon.
- What these tell us about modern workplace culture.
- 5 practical ways you can leverage quiet quitting to boost productivity.
Quiet quitting happens on a spectrum.
On the extreme (and concerning) end of the spectrum, employees are quiet quitting as a response to burnout.
When workers experience burnout, they are mentally and physically exhausted.
The result? Apathy.
A shocking survey conducted by Deloitte found that 77% of full-time employees have experienced employee burnout at their current job, with more than half reporting repeated incidents.
Even more shocking is that many of those surveyed reportedly love their jobs.
But just as you can’t drive a car without fuel, you can’t do work without energy.
And when workers are expected to give extra energy to their work without ample opportunities to replenish their own fuel supply, burnout and apathy are the inevitable results.
In these cases, quiet quitting is less of a choice and more of a survival mechanism.
Workers may not have the energy, time, or other resources to look for a new job, so they do the bare minimum in the one they have.
It’s understandable that this form of quiet quitting is concerning to business leaders.
Because it’s not just a personal problem for workers.
The pervasiveness of burnout is having a measurable effect on productivity, with the Peterson Institute for International Economics reporting a record productivity slump in the first half of 2022.
Simultaneously, we’ve all seen that the pandemic led many people to reevaluate their priorities.
Pew research reports that 1 in 10 people value their work life less than they did before the pandemic.
Many of those surveyed echoed similar sentiments, that “long hours at work” and “being defined by [their] job,” have slid down on their priorities list.
But shifting values don’t automatically translate to decreased productivity.
Humans aren’t machines.
Every hour doesn’t have equal value when it comes to individual output.
In fact, a 2019 Stanford University study found that productivity declines significantly when people work more than 50 hours a week, and productivity falls so drastically after 55 hours that the extra time is “pointless.”
The study also points out that “employees at work for a long time may experience fatigue or stress that not only reduces his or her productivity but also increases the probability of errors, accidents, and sickness that impose costs on the employer.”
So, the problem isn’t that workers are less willing to work overtime.
The problem is that workers don’t feel supported.
And a lot of this comes down to workplace culture.
Gallup reports that, "It's clear that quiet quitting is a symptom of poor management."
Meanwhile, engaged (e.g. involved and enthusiastic) employees will improve customer loyalty by 10%, lead to an 18% improvement in productivity and a 23% increase in profitability.
Plus, an engaged employee is a happy employee, leading to increased employee retention and less hiring costs.
Unfortunately, engagement is dropping faster than the stock market during a recession.
And this is directly related to the lack of “clarity of expectations, opportunities to learn and grow, feeling cared about, and connection to the organization's mission or purpose,” that workers are experiencing at their jobs.
So how can you increase employee engagement?
This is where the other end of the quiet-quitting spectrum comes in.
For many, quiet quitting isn’t passive aggressive withdrawal or laziness.
It’s a recognition of the need for healthy work boundaries and greater support.
Healthy work boundaries and greater support are the perfect prescriptions for lower burnout rates.
Together, they promote a workforce that stays involved and enthusiastic, leading to increased gains for the company at large.
When you look at quiet quitting from this perspective, you can leverage the awareness around it to boost productivity.
Here are 5 practical tips:
Use these strategies to boost productivity at your own company.
1. Use checklists
Want employees who love getting work done?
Give them a checklist.
Checklists provide you and your workers with clearly defined expectations, so you know you’re on the same page in terms of what needs to get done.
Checklists also make discrepancies glaringly obvious, so you can quickly diagnose flaws in your system and take active measures to smooth over any snags before they become tears.
And there’s a reason that checklists are so satisfying.
Every time you mark off one of those little boxes as complete, your brain releases a dopamine hit that can literally be addicting.
Which is one way checklists increase employee focus and sense of accomplishment.
This means more job satisfaction for the employee, and more positive results for the company.
2. Provide growth opportunities, in and outside of work
Boredom is a massive nail in the job satisfaction tire.
Curiosity feeds inspiration, and inspiration is a much more powerful and sustainable motivator than money alone.
But workers can’t be expected to repeat the same tasks every day and feel inspired.
Variety creates interest, and people thrive when they have something to work toward.
There has to be room to grow.
And this applies to life outside of work, too.
An international 2022 study on SME employees published in Frontiers in Psychology, demonstrated that “employees who have a poor work-life balance suffer from reduced productivity and low employee performance. In contrast, employees with a healthy work-life balance have improved job performance.”
A lot of this comes down to stress reduction.
Hobbies provide a welcome distraction from job-related rumination.
And it doesn’t even matter what kind of hobbies are chosen.
Creative pursuits, social activities, and exercise all have proven cortisol-lowering effects.
When workers are encouraged to pursue their interests, stress levels go down, productivity goes up, and everybody wins.
3. Help your employees shine
Are your workers doing what they were hired to do?
Do they have the opportunity, every day, to do what they do best?
Most people are excited about their jobs when they first start.
But the reality is that the time spent on day-to-day tasks like email and scheduling eats up 40% of productive time at work.
These operational tasks act as speedbumps, interrupting focus, slowing productivity, and using up workers’ precious energy reserves.
Workers end up feeling underappreciated, and frustrated because they can’t perform at the level they know they’d otherwise be capable of.
And your business ends up suffering as a result.
There are a few.
One of the most effective strategies is to change expectations around communication.
How often do you really need to check email?
For most jobs, 1-3 times per day is plenty.
If something is urgent, a phone call or in-person meeting may be more appropriate anyway.
Another strategy is to delegate operational tasks to someone whose job it is to manage them.
Prialto’s managed virtual assistant service is a great example of a support system that helps workers spend more time on the work that lights them up.
Once everyone can focus on what they’re good at, you’ll see bigger returns to your business.
4. Create company wellness initiatives
Healthy employees are more productive, and that leads to greater financial gains for your business.
A 2013 study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine showed that employees who participated in health and wellness programs saved an average of $353 per person per year for the company, reflecting 10.3 hours in productive time annually.
Another study, conducted in 2017 by the University of California had results that were even more dramatic.
This study found that participation in corporate wellness programs leads to approximately one additional productive workday per month for the average worker.
But health isn’t just physical.
Wellness programs result in mental health benefits as well.
This means more resilience in your workforce, more enthusiasm for the work, and less employee burnout.
Wellness initiatives don’t have to be expensive.
Some economical steps you can take to improve health and wellness at your company include:
- Outdoor meetings
- Free access to wellness apps
- Social hours
- Green space (a UK study found that bringing plants into the workplace increased productivity by an astounding 15%!)
- Standing desks
- Monthly wellness challenges
- Health and wellness education
- Nutritionist services
- Guided fitness, yoga, and/or meditation sessions
- Mental health days
- Mandatory use of PTO
Check-in with your employees and find out which wellness initiatives they’d be most excited about, hear their ideas, and take steps to implement a few.
Everyone will benefit when you do.
5. Lead by example
Actions are always more powerful than words.
You can talk about making changes all you want, but until you embody these changes in your own work and life, the impact will be as unremarkable as a gentle breeze on a sand dune.
Company culture starts with intentional leadership.
The first step is to define your own priorities, and then follow through.
Want workers to be more engaged?
Start by reducing unnecessary stress.
Set designated working hours for yourself, and stick to them!
Talk about your hobbies.
Work on your own personal development and emotional regulation.
Don’t underestimate the power of social influence.
Change starts with you.
As the saying goes, “If not now, when? If not me, who?”
Prioritize your own work-life balance.
Allow employees to do the same.
And watch how “quiet quitting” transforms your company for the better.
These 5 strategies ensure that your employees know you care for them as people, not just workers, and that’s a leadership quality that will boost both engagement and retention in your workforce.
Once employees are engaged, the next step is to empower them to take more pride in their work.
The key here is to cultivate a sense of ownership through delegative leadership.