Quiet Quitting: How to Reengage Employees in a Post-Pandemic World

November 1, 2022 | Antique Nguyen

The “quiet quitting” phenomenon suggests that employees are doing the bare minimum and even shirking work commitments. The reality is more nuanced: Employees are reevaluating their priorities in the wake of COVID-19. They’re disengaged at work and unwilling to sacrifice personal interests, families or self-care.

Quiet quitting is also the latest buzzword that attempts to explain today’s workforce, especially the younger generations. First, it was the Great Resignation, the concept of why quit rates have increased. There’s also “quiet firing,” when bosses fail to develop their employees or actively try to get them to quit. These phrases have all sparked fierce debate on social media, even as they describe conditions that existed well before the pandemic.

How should human resource leaders react to quiet quitting? How can organizations counter this trend? Explore the concept of quiet quitting, how to reengage your employees and how to maintain healthy boundaries in the workplace.


What Is Quiet Quitting?

The term quiet quitting refers to workers meeting the requirements of their job descriptions and no more ⁠— choosing not to take on additional tasks and responsibilities, including additional unpaid labor. They’re still working 9 to 5 but refuse to be on call 24/7.

The term rose to prominence after a TikTok video featuring a worker who declared “work is not your life” and that they were tired of going above and beyond at their job without recognition or reward.

Gallup suggests that at least 50% of the U.S. workforce are quiet quitters who are disengaged at work. Disengaged workers “do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job.”

Quiet quitting and similar practices allow employees to keep their jobs while setting personal boundaries and seeking work-life balance.


Reengaging Employees at Work

Engaged employees are good for business. They are less prone to absenteeism and turnover, likely to have high productivity and contribute to profitability.

The key to employee engagement is improving the employee experience at your organization. Here are three ways you can re-engage employees at work.

1. Motivate Employees to Put Their Physical and Mental Health First

A 2022 KFF/CNN Mental Health In America survey found that 90% of Americans believe the U.S. is facing a mental health crisis. Meanwhile, nearly one-third of adults have regularly suffered from anxiety in the prior year.

The first step to re-engaging employees in the workplace is building a culture of belonging. Managers need to empathize with their employees’ challenges while encouraging them to safeguard their physical and mental health. Showing employees that you care for their well-being is a simple and attainable way to combat the indifference that contributes to quiet quitting.

2. Start Career Planning Conversations Within the Organization

Career planning and development benefit employees while giving your organization new skills. Training employees from within is often more cost-effective than replacing them with external candidates.

HR teams can help managers create career growth plans with employees that could include training, new projects or new roles within the organization. When you invest in employees, they’re more likely to feel engaged, and they can see how their effort at work pays off.

3. Recognize and Reward Employees Who Go Above and Beyond

Employees also want to be recognized for their contributions, especially if they go above and beyond their job descriptions. A 2022 report by Gallup and Workhuman found that employees who feel fulfilled by recognition are more likely to be engaged and less likely to look for other jobs.

Recognition can take place at the highest levels of the organization, and HR leaders can also help managers understand the importance of private and public recognition as part of the feedback they give their teams.


Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

Many advocates of quiet quitting object to the term for stigmatizing employees who set workplace boundaries. Without boundaries, after all, employees can quickly burn out or feel taken advantage of.

Leaders at all levels need to walk the walk when setting boundaries. Making that change happen might require difficult conversations about the workplace culture, employee workloads and whether employees feel comfortable asking for help. For some employees, the option to work remotely, even part of the time, can go a long way toward restoring trust while helping them meet their responsibilities.

Employees can set healthy boundaries when they can identify their priorities, push back on excess or irrelevant work, and feel comfortable scheduling time off. If your workplace culture doesn’t support those practices, even the best managers will struggle to model them and support their employees.


Engaging With Quiet Quitters

Employee engagement contributes to your productivity, turnover, bottom line and reputation. When employees aren’t happy, they’ll quit or withdraw. Neither outcome is good ⁠— for you or them.

Use the discussion around quiet quitting as an opportunity to evaluate your organization’s practices and culture. Are your employees engaged and satisfied? If not, ask why ⁠— and be prepared to act on the answers you receive.

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