quiet quitting

The Correlation Between Quiet Quitting and Remote Workers


A new term being used following the great resignation called “quiet quitting.”

What is it? The term is defined as workers who do not quit their position but are mentally checking out. Signs may include losing motivation, withdrawing from the team, or focusing on projects, not within their job description. Quiet quitting is becoming more prevalent than ever as remote work is increasing in popularity since the pandemic. In addition, rising costs and soaring inflation have left people feeling the pain of increased stress, causing mounting frustrations.

While this has been around for years, the staffing shortages are increasing the rates at which the behavior is noticed and discussed. These are the “lukewarm” employees or “steady-Eddy” that do just enough to get by. They are not brand-warrior employees, nor are they top performers. But, on the other hand, they are not the low performers that will be weeded out, either. They are not flight risks and do not bring negative attention to the company (aside from mediocre service and banter about pay). However, they tend to do their job adequately.

Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report found that job dissatisfaction is at a staggering all-time high and that unhappy and disengaged workers cost the global economy $7.8 trillion in lost productivity. Johnny C. Taylor Jr., President and CEO of Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR society, says remote work has caused severe burnout and Zoom fatigue and made it harder for some workers to take breaks from home. “I don’t know a company in America that is not sensitized to burnout and the need for employees to step away from the workplace for their mental health.”

Quiet Quitting Key Findings

In August 2022, Resume Builder surveyed 1,000 working Americans to understand the dynamics of quiet quitting. Here is what they found:

  • 26% of workers leave quietly, saying they only do the bare minimum; 5% do even less than what they’re paid to do.
  • 8 in 10 quiet quitters are burned out.
  • 1 in 10 employees put in less effort than six months ago; half say this hasn’t gone unnoticed.
  • 1 in 3 who have reduced effort has reduced hours working by more than 50%.
  • 75% of quiet quitters could be incentivized to work harder with a salary increase.
  • 21% of remote workers admitted to quiet quitting.

The remote workforce has grown more than 50% in the past decade. Companies save money by hiring remote workers who don’t have to commute daily to a physical office. Remote work allows employees more flexibility in their schedules and to live in locations with fewer job opportunities. However, adjustments are needed to ensure the remote worker stays productive and motivated. Remote working has enabled workers with a flexible schedule that allows room for flexibility. However, working when they want, instead of when they must, is often a mindset many professionals adopt that leads to a quiet quitting mentality. If you don’t want your teams to become distant, it’s important that you put the right leaders in charge.

Improving Employee Performance and Productivity Through Leadership

There are many ways to manage a remote team, but three fundamental principles are universal. First, ensure the team is clear on their roles and responsibilities and that you have the most influential leaders in place. Second, ensure each team member has the tools they need for success. Third, have regular check-ins with team members to ensure they are aligned with the company’s goals and objectives. The most common management challenges include inconsistent feedback, performance evaluations, lack of trust, and loss of cohesion among employees. Monitoring progress and offering support to your employees can be very challenging, but with the right approach, it can happen.

Remote Worker Challenges

We need to also look at the employee’s challenges that lead to quiet quitting. One major challenge is the lack of face-to-face contact with their coworkers. This is one of the most prevalent issues for remote workers. This is exasperated by an unspoken rivalry with co-located colleagues due partly to the common misconception that remote workers are less productive. To combat disengagement from limited face-to-face interaction, consider regular virtual meetings with a “camera on” encouraged, options for hybrid work, and be selective regarding what type of roles and employees are eligible for remote work.

Below are more tips on how to lead your team successfully:

  • Have virtual meetings with your employees. Turn on the camera and see each other’s faces. This will make up for the loss of in-person meetings you used to have in the office.
  • Regularly check in with your team members. Remote workers have fewer opportunities for social interaction from home.
  • Provide weekly company updates. Employees need to know their role and contribution to the company’s success.
  • Design feedback systems, such as surveys, and encourage open communication so your employees can offer their input.
  • Due to the surge in the cost of living and inflation, consider providing a COLA that would help your employees financially and ease home life stress.
  • Create an online workspace for your team members. There are amazing tools to collaborate with your team; for example, Asana is used to collaborate on different projects, tasks, and ideas on the same platform. You can also share files with other team members who are not present in the office. Trello helps organize anything from designing a product to managing your schedule effectively by creating task lists and organizing them into boards.
  • Learn effective email communication by responding promptly and keeping emails short and clear while maintaining a friendly tone.
  • Pay attention to time zone differences when scheduling meetings. Schedule enough time for employee feedback and input, don’t rush the conversation and most importantly, actively listen.
  • Implement a code of conduct for your remote employees. Remote employees have different challenges than those who work in an office setting. A code of conduct can include dress guidelines, communication, behavior, and interactions with customers and coworkers.

Loneliness and the Quiet Quitting Mentality

The workplace is an important part of our lives. It’s where we spend most of our time, and it’s where we meet new people who can become friends or colleagues. But the workplace can also be a lonely place. Work-related loneliness is not only a problem for the individual but also their employer.

Research has shown that employees with lower social skills are more likely to experience work-related loneliness and become disengaged than those with higher social skills. This loneliness is difficult to avoid, as it stems from a lack of connection and social support. As companies continue to rely on remote employees for their business, the need to ensure that employees are happy and feel like they are part of an office community has never been more critical.

Here are a few suggestions to combat remote worker loneliness:

  • Create opportunities for employees to develop relationships with each other. Allowing employees time for team events encourages camaraderie and makes them feel like they are a part of an organization, not just an employee.
  • Celebrate and communicate. Celebrate employee accomplishments, birthdays, and work anniversaries. Small acts of appreciation have a positive ripple effect throughout the company.
  • Increase employee morale through training. Investing in your team helps the employer and the employee, so you can’t go wrong.
  • Ask for feedback through company surveys and act on the feedback. It shows you care about their opinions and brings the team together.
  • Encourage employees to take breaks, use their vacation time, or offer a four-day work schedule. Remote employees often work over 8 hours, increasing the likelihood of burnout. Offering a four-day work week shows concern for employees’ work-life balance struggles they may be experiencing.
  • Set up team collaboration opportunities. Organize lunchtime meetings and brainstorm company improvement ideas.
  • Organize a focus group to discuss company values. Facilitating team-building exercises might include looking for opportunities to learn more about topics related to your work, such as the history of your company’s products or mission statement.
  • If an employee is isolated, share a few ideas, such as: finding a coworking space in the area, joining an online community or forum, enrolling in an online educational course or seminar, attending work meetups, or attending a business-related conference.
  • Offer a flexible work schedule. Some people do their best work early in the morning, and others are night owls. Offering this added benefit shows trust in your team.
  • Respect employees’ time by avoiding sending late-night messages that are not urgent. This incentivizes employees to disconnect from their computers.

Over time, what has consistently held is that companies should invest more time and energy into top performers and quickly move away from low performers. Make reasonable efforts to engage those in the middle – now termed quiet quitters. Some will convert, and some won’t. Let’s face it, the new normal is here, and remote work is not going away. Employers need to be readily prepared to deal with potential challenges. The key is to have an open mind and prepare yourself upfront to have a good relationship with your remote employees.

Authors Michelle Smith Schmidt and Liz Warren

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