The amount of change in the world in the last two to three years has been massive. Absolutely huge. Businesses and organisations are trying to adapt to that change. Some are going with the change while others are resisting change. Organisations and employees have not established the norms of the new working relationship. It’s something that needs to be agreed by both sides. Currently we’re in the process of a tug of war of where that line ends.
How did we get here?
The way I see it, over the last 8 years before the pandemic there wasn’t that much change in the workplace. Sure there were some tech changes moving from desktop computers to laptop, and the proliferation of first mobiles and then smartphones. But the actual process of coming into work, sitting down at your desk and starting the day, and the times and where you worked didn’t change.
During the pandemic this changed overnight – suddenly far more people than ever before were able to work remotely, and didn’t have the same set hours that they did before. Many people who had been working over lunch now were able to take breaks. Parents got used to spending more time with their kids. People adopted new pets, hobbies and routines. Work-life balance looked completely different through necessity.
The current situation
Now we’re starting to establish where those boundaries are in this new phase of work. This is where quiet quitting comes in. For me quiet quitting is a symptom of companies and employees not having clarity on what is expected.
When we move from a system where employees were given freedom and trust, to being back in a situation where leaders are deciding what’s best for their people and mandating everything from full time office attendance to closing down offices entirely, there is bound to be friction at some point.
What it comes down to is the social contract between the employer and employee. This should extend to the CEO and leadership level showing what the culture should be – are they in the office all the time or are they taking their holidays and respecting boundaries?
Where are we headed?
Some organisations will continue to be buffeted by the pandemic, others will be able to move on more quickly and easily. Building a culture and approach that everyone can be part of will be key to the success of your business.
Organisations need to decide where they want to be and how they’re going to get there. All organisations and, indeed, individuals are changing at different times and rates. Which means that some people will have different risk tolerance than others, and will want and need different types of support and resources.
I am not a fan of the term “new normal”. As we’ve seen with the number of changes within our society and world over the last few weeks, let alone months and years, we’re living in a time of unprecedented change and it seems unlikely that this will settle soon. This means creating a business culture that gives you and your employees the flexibility and structure that allows you to weather these changes.
So what can we do as business leaders?
If I were to give some practical advice, I would say that it’s important for organisations to get ahead of the game when it comes to quiet quitting. My suggested approach to this would be threefold. Firstly, it’s important that you define your employee proposition and what is and isn’t expected. From here you need to get feedback from your employees on this. This will allow you to co-create a culture that works for both your company and your employees.
Although it’s difficult to create a culture that works for everyone, it’s still important for everyone to feel heard and involved in the process. In a world of constant change, people will be processing developments at their own pace and in their own way. For this reason it’s important to keep in touch with your team, both formally and informally, in order to truly understand where your people are with this piece.
At The Happiness Index we always say that we aim to share, not scare. Being open and honest with your team about change and how it’s likely to affect your organisation and your culture is key. Sharing with the intention to inform and enter into a conversation, which is truly two-way – meaning that your people get their say and input – is the only way that you’re going to retain your top talent and move with the pace of change.
Neuroscience shows us that clarity is one of the most important drivers of engagement. It seems clear that there’s a link between quiet quitting and lack of engagement. That’s why for me it all comes down to clarity.
If you’re finding yourself in a situation where quiet quitting is becoming a problem then it means that you might not be giving your people clarity. But by the same token you can also head the problem off at the pass by addressing the problem head on. Give your team the clarity they need so that everyone understands what’s required and how change is going to impact them personally, and your organisation as a whole.