What happens when “hustle culture” gives way to prolonged work hours, maxed-out workloads, and extensive burnout?
You end up with employees “quiet quitting,” or doing the bare minimum amount of work to get by and maintain a better work-life balance.
While many younger employees are starting to give a name to their rising disengagement at work, you may be surprised to learn that quiet quitting didn’t originate on TikTok.
In fact, the idea as we know it was even referenced as early as 1999, when we saw evidence of quiet quitting in the cult classic, Office Space.
Though Peter Gibbons’ blunt feedback for his bosses is entertaining to watch, his underlying argument centers around the ideology behind quiet quitting. Rather than overachieving and stressing about missing deadlines or making mistakes at work, Peter minimizes the stakes and does just enough to not get fired.
And while the movie is satirical in its depiction of workplace burnout, for many employees in today’s workforce, it’s a table-stakes issue that draws a hard line between retention and resignation.
Why Are Employees Quiet Quitting?
Employees today are experiencing unprecedented burnout on the heels of the Great Resignation. Employee engagement is falling across the board, and according to survey data from Gallup, Gen Z and millennials (born in 1989 and after) are reported to be the least engaged at work.
According to Gallup’s workforce and well-being research report, the notion of “quiet quitting” actually coincides with respondents who are unengaged at work. And more than half of those unengaged were Gen Z or millennials, shining a light on the need to focus on engagement for today’s younger generations in the workforce.
If the last two years have shown us anything, it’s that employees are actively prioritizing agency and autonomy in their work. Whether they’re looking for flexible work schedules, shared company values, or transparent communication from superiors, employees want their organizations to listen, care, and offer personalized support.
So, what’s driving these employees to check out from work?
Lack of Flexibility
When it comes to getting work done, younger employees strongly prefer the flexibility of hybrid and remote work schedules.
Based on data from Deloitte’s Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial survey, 75 percent of Gen Z and 76 percent of millennial employees opt for hybrid or remote working patterns, where they either split their time between remote and on-site work or work entirely from home.
However, less than half of Gen Z and millennial employees are currently working remotely, despite three-quarters saying this would be their preferred mode of working. Many of these employees specifically cite their organizations’ failure to accommodate flexible work environments as the main contributor to their burnout and lack of engagement.
In addition to deciding where they work, Gen Z and millennial employees also want flexibility in how and when they work. According to Deloitte’s survey, 63 percent of employees would like their organizations to offer flexible working hours (e.g. half days and late starts) as well as three- or four-day work weeks to achieve a better work-life balance.
How You Can Help: Without flexible work accommodations, younger employees are more likely to check out, abandon career goals, and seek employment elsewhere. To solve this problem at its root, employers can leverage surveys or employee resource groups (ERGs) to get a pulse on employee sentiment and productivity. Flexible accommodations with increased engagement tactics can be utilized for employees who choose to work from home, while hybrid accommodations and commuting benefits can be integrated for in-person workers.
Related Reading: Why Company Culture Might Be the Secret to Employee Wellness
No Shared Values or Purpose
Culture, inclusion, and diversity are the name of the game for attracting, retaining, and engaging employees today. According to a recent survey released by Robin, 88 percent of Gen Z employees believe all three are somewhat, if not incredibly, important to overall job satisfaction.
The same sentiments are echoed by millennials, who also prefer companies that are ethical, inclusive, and socially driven. Currently, 75 percent of millennials say that the organizations they work for are primarily focused on their own good rather than the good of the greater population, leading many to feel disconnected from their companies.
As a result, when employees have different values than the companies they work for, they feel less motivated to overachieve and remain loyal to their organizations. Data from Deloitte’s survey revealed that nearly two in five Gen Z employees have rejected a job or assignment because it did not align with their values.
How You Can Help: The majority of younger employees want their employers to advocate for social change and produce purposeful work. Employers can look to their benefits and resources to gradually make a difference. For example, if climate change is important to your company’s employees, you can take steps to minimize paper usage, offer recycling options in the office, and provide public transportation benefits.
Related Content: CSR, ESG, and DEI: Your Key to the Workplace Culture Employees Want
Insufficient Support for Mental and Financial Well-Being
It’s no secret that employees are collectively burned out, and the underlying source of their stress can be linked to intense and unmanageable workloads that affect their mental health inside and outside of work.
Deloitte’s survey revealed that four in 10 Gen Z and millennial employees are experiencing heightened anxiety and depression due to the intensity and demands of their jobs. Out of those individuals who have changed jobs in the last two years, a majority cited burnout as one of the top three reasons for leaving.
Younger generations in the workplace are also experiencing a significant amount of financial instability and student loan debt. Data from Deloitte’s survey also reported that almost half of Gen Z and millennial employees are currently living paycheck to paycheck, and many worry they won’t be able to cover monthly expenses.
Over a quarter of millennials are also working two or more jobs, and 73 percent are working more than 40 hours per week. The exhaustion and stress of not having sufficient income on top of unmanageable workloads is enough to cause these employees to quietly quit.
How You Can Help: While competitive salaries may be one way to keep employees happy, providing personalized wellness resources keeps employees engaged and committed to their organizations and meets them at an individual level.
Each employee’s mental health and financial situation will be different, which is why companies need to continually find equitable benefits and resources that align with their employees’ needs. Assistance with student loans and retirement planning courses can serve as helpful bridges to financial security, while stigma-free mental health days and teletherapy benefits provide psychologically safe spaces for addressing emotional wellness.
Related Content: Removing Barriers to Employee Mental Health Care
The Bottom Line: Quiet Quitting is an Opportunity, Not a Curse
While quiet quitting can be an early indicator for an employee’s willingness to resign, it certainly shouldn’t be associated with laziness or disloyalty. Rather, it gives a name to a long-standing problem workplaces have been battling for decades—disengagement.
If companies are noticing prevalent trends in their employees’ morale or engagement, they can take proactive steps to offer personalized support. Open communication is key, and by addressing benefit deficits and gaps in care from a holistic wellness perspective, organizations can build trust with their employees and instill long-lasting engagement.
If you want to learn more about how personalized wellness solutions can unite and engage your workforce, contact us today. At WellRight, we’re here to help.