Pretty much every business around wants high employee engagement — it can increase profitability, competitiveness, and retention. But right now many companies are worried about losing their employee engagement to quiet quitting.
So what is quiet quitting? Is it actually a problem? And how do you handle it? Let’s walk through the key points of quiet quitting, and what this trend is really saying about workplaces.
What Is Quiet Quitting?
Quiet quitting is when a previously engaged employee starts to do the bare minimum, exerting no more effort than is required to stay employed. As the World Economic Forum puts it, employees are “doing what’s required and then getting on with [their] life…”
While a 44-year-old career coach is credited with coining the term in March of 2022, the phrase was popularized by a viral TikTok several months later. In the video, 24-year-old software programmer Zaid Khan explains that quiet quitting isn’t physically leaving your job but “quitting the idea of going above and beyond.”
What does this look like in practice? It could be teammates no longer attending non-mandatory meetings, not showing up early or staying late, and not doing things traditionally meant to demonstrate particular loyalty to a job or company. They fulfill their job description and nothing more.
So… Is Quiet Quitting a Problem?
People generally agree on what quiet quitting is: doing what’s required stopping there. But whether this is problematic depends on who you ask.
Supporters of quiet quitting see it as setting healthy boundaries. People still get quality work done. What they drop is the excess effort that isn’t required to get the job done, the work that overburdens. Quiet quitters say this approach allows them to facilitate work-life wellness and avoid burnout. Such supporters point out that, despite the new name, this is not a new phenomenon — other generations have called it slacking, coasting, or checking out, and each has faced its own phase of reckoning to determine where wage work fits within life at large.
Those who hear ‘quiet quitting’ and cringe see the decreased efforts as a way for workers to keep the job on a technicality and while avoiding the level of engagement required to do a job well done. They see it as a troubling trend that decreases productivity, lowers morale, and decreases the value companies derive from their salary expenditures. Quiet quitters, they say, are those who no longer care about their contributions, driving a deterioration in the quality and/or quantity of the work produced.
Quiet Quitting vs. Working Towards Wellness
This conversation lumps two types of employees under the “quiet quitter” banner.
The first group, the group that aims to avoid burnout and stay focused on what matters at work, should be supported and praised. Hustle culture and burnout are plaguing the American workplace. This year 75% of individuals have reported experiencing burnout at work. Teammates across the board should be supported in preventing burnout so that they can maintain fulfilled and happy lives. These are the employees working towards wellness.
The second group, those who don’t care and are only doing enough to avoid a pink slip, seem to have hit burnout and kept going. This group is likely the result of hustle culture left unchecked. Too tired to muster motivation for their work, having been failed by the wellness systems (or lack thereof) in the workplace, they push through with the bare minimum.
It’s not shocking if either description sounds like some of your coworkers. Gallup estimates that quiet quitters (defined as “people who do the minimum required and are psychologically detached from their job”) make up 50% of the workforce. This research also finds that for every productive individual, nearly two are actively disengaged, which is the worst ratio in almost a decade.
So, disengagement is rampant — but the good news is management has it in their power to help both of these groups!
How to Combat Quiet Quitting
That the idea of “quiet quitting” resonates with millions of people is revealing. It shows how many workers feel overburdened and under supported in their current job. Quiet quitting is a natural response to experiencing burnout and disregard.
When put in that light, the solution to quiet quitting is to create an environment where nobody feels pushed to the breaking point. Fostering that kind of workplace is reliant on the quality of a company’s management and wellness systems, not the can-do spirit of individual employees.
So how can you create a workplace that doesn’t foster quiet quitting? Here are seven actions you can take to start re-engaging both types of quiet quitters.
- Evaluate workloads and account for increased responsibilities in job descriptions (and pay!). If an employee has taken on additional responsibilities over time but their compensation has not adjusted accordingly, this may breed resentment that drives disengagement. Check in with employees to see what tasks they are performing and compare it to their job descriptions. If you find team members successfully operating beyond their formal role, consider exploring promotions or salary increases that recognize their increased contribution.
- Check in with management. Support and engagement trickles down — managers have to be adequately supported in order to support their staff. Consider surveying your managers about their workload and the resources available to them, and what they feel would empower them to better support their staff.
- Listen to employees, then act. Interviews, surveys, and more are great ways to hear from your team members. This gives you the chance to identify improvements that would increase employee engagement, and to show that you care about employee input. Once you do collect their thoughts, communicate what was done with their feedback so they feel recognized. You can cite staff surveys when explaining new changes to the company handbook, for example, or use a company-wide town hall to share how employee feedback shaped next quarter’s strategy.
- Conduct a compensation analysis. Are your salaries competitive in your industry and region? Are they equitable internally between employees? If any of this is out of balance, it can cause dissatisfaction that pushes employees to tune out. A compensation analysis reviews your pay practices to assess equality and competitiveness, which could help you spot employees at risk of feeling undervalued.
- Create a positive company culture. Company culture is so important that 46% of individuals look for company culture “fit” before accepting a job. Culture encompasses the quality of the working environment. A positive culture is one where employees feel supported and set up for success. It’s a workplace where, if an employee says their workload has become too much to handle, the situation is addressed. Staffers know their input is respected and taken into account. When workers do go above and beyond, that extra work is recognized, not taken for granted. Ensuring managers are encouraged and empowered to meet their teams’ needs is foundational to building this kind of culture.
- Encourage activity. Implementing a wellness program can help your employees refresh and re-engage. Research shows that 70% of workers enrolled in a workplace wellness program have reported“higher job satisfaction” after enrollment and employees who exercise three times a week are 15% more likely to have a better job performance. You can encourage employees to stagger meetings so they have time to take a walk in between calls, or provide access to more than 50,000 fitness providers and wellness apps by partnering with Gympass.
- Support flexible work arrangements. The 9 to 5 work day is not sacrosanct. If your employees can do their work from home or asynchronously, allowing that can make it easier for people to achieve work-life wellness. If, for example, a mother needs to pick up her kids from school in the afternoon, remote work with flexible hours makes it easier to get her kids without worrying that she will be seen as less committed than her childless peers. This kind of accommodation can help reduce stress, decreasing the likelihood of burnout.
The Bottom Line
Quiet quitting isn’t just a Tiktok-transmitted scourge of flighty young. Yes, your young, Gen-Z co-workers are reporting high levels of workplace disengagement — but they are waving the flag to draw attention to ways the workplace can be improved to better support overall wellness.
With clear communication, expectations, support and boundaries, companies can create an environment where employees feel cared for and understood—which ultimately negates a need for quiet quitting at all.
Speak with a wellbeing specialist to find the best solution for your company needs!
The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.