Quiet quitting put a new spin on a familiar workplace challenge – disengagement. As the term gained popularity on TikTok, workplaces across the UK started to notice its impact. Instead of handing in their notice, employees who choose to ‘quiet quit’ consciously reduced the effort, time, and ideas they put into their work. They still turned up on time and did what was required, but refused to take on anything beyond their job description.
Amidst the discussions around quiet quitting, other trends began to appear, like Bare Minimum Mondays – a form of self-care to ease into the working week; Career Cushioning – where employees keep their options open by planning an alternative career; and the Slow Work movement which encourages people to take more time over tasks to resist stress.
While these might be tempting to brush off as social media fads, the reality is that employers must pay attention to how employees’ attitudes and expectations towards the workplace are shifting in order to recruit, engage and retain talent.
What do these trends mean for staff engagement?
Although the trends above may not lead to mass resignations, this tendency for employees to put in less effort at work suggests a wider decline in employee engagement.
When we talk about highly engaged employees, we don’t mean employees are happy to work all hours and put their job above anything else. Instead, being engaged means that employees feel enthusiastic about coming to work each day, are proud to be part of your organization, and want to do their best work to help your organization succeed.
On the other hand, when employee engagement drops, we see people withdraw from their colleagues, become less willing to suggest ideas, and are unlikely to volunteer for new initiatives. They may also become more critical of the company and its leaders, which over time can rub off on those around them.
So regardless of the trends that drive the change, noticing that employees are withdrawing or making less effort should urge leaders to investigate how engaged (or not) their workforce is.
What can employers do about these trends?
The changes we’re seeing in today’s workplaces are driven by a few key factors which employers can act on to boost engagement and create an environment that better reflects the expectations of today’s workforce.
- Listen to your people
Employee engagement surveys paint a picture of how connected people feel to your company and the changes employees would like to see. Your survey data will also identify if employee engagement levels vary across your organization and which factors might be causing this. For instance, you could look at responses by employee age group or department to understand how experiences differ and what improvements each group would like to see. By addressing these in your survey action plan, you can tackle the issues that might be causing people to disengage or check out. This cycle of feedback and action also helps boost engagement by showing people that leaders take their feedback seriously, and are willing to act on it.
- Improve work/life balance
Quiet quitting was hailed by many as a positive way to restore work/life balance and put their health and families first. Employers can help employees set healthy boundaries by offering remote, hybrid, or flexible working options. Giving employees more freedom over how, where, and when they work demonstrates that you trust them and allows them to adjust their schedule around gym classes, school runs, or other commitments without needing to reduce their effort at work.
- Offer room to grow
Recent trends have shown the damage done to engagement when employees feel stuck or unfulfilled in their roles. Combat this by embedding Learning & Development into your organization to help employees progress. While each program will be unique, activities could include a mentoring program, lunch and learn sessions, employee learning stipends, or skill-sharing workshops. By helping employees learn new skills you’re creating a more confident and motivated workforce, and showing your investment in developing your people.
- Show you care about the wellbeing
Many of the recent workplace trends are intended to resist stress and protect personal health. Indeed, ‘Bare Minimum Mondays’ are touted as a way to relieve anxiety at the start of a new week. Employee stress levels are on the rise, with a recent survey showing that Gen Z (18-24-year-olds) are feeling the strain most. So to engage and retain a younger workforce, employers must show they truly care about well-being with a well-thought-out strategy that reflects employees’ physical, mental, financial, and community well-being needs.
For the initiatives above to have a lasting impact on employee engagement, they must be embedded into your organization. Start by listening to your employees and understanding the areas that could help them feel more connected and motivated at work. Then, take action to address these issues and show that you have taken their feedback onboard.