Understanding “Loud Leaving” – an attempt at work-life balance or a toxic workplace trend?

by Carlo Borja
loud leaving workplace

“Loud leaving” is a new workplace trend in which employees make a big show of leaving work at the end of the day. This can include things like announcing their departure to the entire office, packing up their belongings loudly, or even making a social media post about it.

It can be thought of as a sort of antidote to “quiet quitting” which is when employees that have been disengaged continue to show up but do the minimum possible just get by. Loud leaving, on the other hand, is a way for leaders to demonstrate that they are engaged while working but know how and when to switch off from work.

Managers who practice loud leaving say they do it as a way to encourage their teams to leave work on time. The thinking is that culture is set by following what senior leaders do. If those leaders are staying at work until all hours, their teams generally think that’s what they have to do too.

That all sounds good, however there has recently been some criticism of this new trend, so we thought we would take a look at the pros and cons to understand what impact it has on a workforce, and whether it’s truly necessary.

It’s all about work/life balance

After all the tribulations that workers have been through in the last few years, the one good thing that has potentially emerged is a new awareness on the part of employers of the importance of work-life balance.

While it’s possible that some employers are just paying lip service to the idea, the best understand that burnout is not good for anyone. They have therefore taken steps to ensure that their employees aren’t overworked or overwhelmed.

The most important many have taken is to offer genuinely flexible working conditions to their employees. This includes remote working options but also the opportunity to decide when they work, in many cases.

This is all good stuff. For decades office workplace culture in many companies was all about who showed up earliest and left the latest. As if all that mattered was being present in the office rather than doing quality work.

So, isn’t loud leaving a good thing?

Defenders of “loud leaving”, who are often loud leavers themselves, claim that setting an example is what leaders should do. If they didn’t set the example that leaving on time is culturally the normal and expected thing to do, then workers might think they have to stay late in order to get ahead.

As can be seen in this thread on LinkedIn, there are plenty of managers who are proud of being loud leavers. According to LinkedIn’s research, 46% of people have experienced loud leaving, and Gen Z workers are most attuned to it. The same survey of workers found that 70% of people feel confident “loud leaving” as their work/life balance is extremely important.

Certainly, a culture that encourages loud leaving can help to set boundaries between work and personal life. When employees leave work at a specific time, it can help them to mentally and emotionally detach from their work, which establishes a better work-life balance.

For new employees this can be particularly powerful. If they see their colleagues leaving work at a reasonable time, it shows them that it is okay to have a life outside of work. It can also create a sense of camaraderie among employees if they all leave work at the same time, making the workplace more enjoyable and productive.

Why do some consider it toxic?

There is no doubt that the sentiment behind most loud leavers is good and honorable. They want to indicate to their team members that it is OK to go leave work and go spend time on other aspects of their lives.

The problem, according to the critics, is that there should be no need at all for loud leaving if your workplace culture is in order. If employees need to be told when to leave, then it can be inferred that there is still a lingering expectation that they will work longer hours than they are contracted for.

It also strongly suggests that they are overburdened with work, otherwise they would have no problem finishing it within the allotted time. Overwork is one of the main causes of burnout, stress, and is also what drives the phenomena we call “quiet quitting” and “the Great Resignation”. Employees with too much work to do and nobody to relieve them generally quit.

The argument goes that “loud leaving” could be seen as virtue-signaling, and actually prevents the workplace from dealing with the real problem of work/life balance. Rather than offering a real solution the employer, or manager, instead continues to hold power over exactly when employees are expected to work. Hiring more people, providing tools that improve productivity and efficiency, and offering flexible working conditions are the best ways to manage stress and burnout.

Taken to extremes, if loud leaving becomes ingrained within a workplace culture, it could even lead to a sense of competition over who can finish their work and leave first. Rather than alleviate feelings of stress and burnout this could actually cause them, as employees feel like they have to constantly prove themselves by getting through all their work quickly. Potentially this could lead to a decline in quality.

What to do instead?

Guarding against burnout isn’t about prescribing when people work, but about giving your employees genuine flexibility so that they can build work around their lives as it best suits them.

In this model it doesn’t matter so much when or where work gets done. As long as it gets done well and on schedule, nobody cares whether employees work 9 till 5 in the office, or in several short shifts from home which they spread across 12 hours so they can take their children to school, study or pursue a hobby, look after an elderly relative, or spend more family time when the children come home from school.

Once employees are empowered to choose their own schedules, there is no need to tell them when to stop working. They know what their working hours are as they set those hours themselves and crafted their schedule quite carefully around all the other things they have going on in their lives.

To accomplish this, employers need to create a culture of work-life balance. At a minimum, this means providing employees with flexible hours, remote work options, and paid time off. It also means encouraging employees to take breaks throughout the day and to not check work emails or messages outside of work hours.

Employers also need to provide employees with the resources they need to be successful. This includes things like training, development opportunities, and access to technology. When employees feel like they have the tools they need to do their jobs, they are more likely to be productive and less likely to feel the need to work long hours.

Measure productivity to enable flexibility

When employees and managers can see how much work is being done, when it is being done, and what hours everyone else is working, the workplace becomes a lot more relaxed. There are two reasons for this.

The first is that all employees can see what hours their colleagues and managers are working, so they understand what’s expected of them. This accomplishes the same goals as “loud leaving” just in a more subtle and organized way.

Secondly, employees and managers have some way to measure their productivity as individuals and as a team. It gives everyone peace of mind that whatever work needs to be completed is getting done. Removing that sense of panic that comes with a lack of visibility of important tasks is crucial to reducing stress and burnout.

Gathering that information can be done with time tracking and workday analytics software like Time Doctor.

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