You may have heard the news that “quiet quitters” make up 50% of the US workforce.
You may already know that this trend is a significant issue for the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry, that it’s a complex topic for human resources departments, and that many have suggested quiet quitting is due to poor employee engagement.
But what exactly is quiet quitting? How does it relate to productivity and profitability, and is it linked to employee attrition? We’ll discuss all of these issues and give you the answers to these critical questions in this article.
What is meant by quiet quitting?
Quiet quitting is a phrase that has gone global, referring to employees who may show up for work and complete their duties but avoid working beyond their assigned requirements and responsibilities. It means doing no additional work and clocking out as soon as the workday is complete.
However, as the phrase has evolved, you may have heard other meanings of quiet quitting; many employees interpret it differently.
Some consider this trend to mean taking a mental break from work or disconnecting sufficiently to recuperate and avoid stress. Some regard quiet quitting to mean avoiding “going above and beyond” during the working day, and others say it’s all about not letting work envelop your life.
But who does quiet quitting refer to? Which people relate to this phrase?
Does quiet quitting relate to everyone?
Although you may associate this trend primarily with Generation Z, as TikTockers and employees as young as 25 are all talking about it, quiet quitting may not necessarily relate to everyone in this age bracket. For example, some job roles make it challenging for employees to embrace the quiet quitting trend, even if they belong to Generation Z.
The fact is that it’s much more difficult for a paramedic or head teacher to endorse quiet quitting. It’s a challenge for legal staff or nurses to become quiet quitters simply due to the urgent nature of their work, and the same applies to police officers or firefighters.
Quiet quitting doesn’t relate to everyone. Not all workers have the luxury of doing the bare minimum at work – even if many employees may feel disengaged at work. And one significant factor has led to this disengagement in current times …
Is quiet quitting linked to COVID-19?
There is some evidence that quiet quitting is partly a byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic. Human resources professionals have noticed that existing employees are bearing the increased strain imposed on them by smaller workforces caused by layoffs or downsizing during the pandemic.
The remaining employees are now asked to complete more work for the same pay, and the quiet quitting trend is considered a way to prioritize mental well-being in challenging post-COVID-19 times. The priority for these employees is to focus on their work-life balance and avoid taking on extra responsibilities.
Is quiet quitting related to employee disengagement?
Whether linked to the quiet quitting phenomenon or not, employee disengagement in the BPO industry appears to be on the rise. In our recent survey of BPOs and productivity, 27% claimed that low employee engagement is their main productivity challenge. While another 27% claimed it was employee attrition, which is linked to engagement. Could it be that quiet quitting is simply a new name for an old phenomenon – employee disengagement?
Yes, quiet quitting is linked to employee disengagement and is a reaction to the lack of meaning they find at work. But the paradox here is that quiet quitters are often just seeking ways to enhance their work-life balance – which can actually increase productivity.
Time Doctor’s work-life balance widget seeks to address this very issue. By enabling BPO managers to spot employees who are overworking or working outside of their usual hours, they can analyze individuals’ work patterns to understand why they are working extra hours. Management can then fix the underlying inefficient processes or technologies that are often the reason employees don’t have time to complete their work during normal hours.
With the correct communication methods, you can find the right solutions to re-engage employees. You can encourage quiet quitters to voice their opinions and increase employee engagement by rolling out methods to acknowledge their challenges. But first you have to notice when quiet quitting is occurring, which begins by understanding how your employees are spending their time and recognizing that quiet quitting is usually a way for employees to cope with burnout.
Is reduced profitability and productivity a result of quiet quitting?
Unfortunately, yes, productivity and profitability can reduce due to quiet quitting.
It’s just a fact that quiet quitting employees get through less work than their more engaged colleagues. That means lower billings and higher margins as your labor costs per completed task will be higher. For a BPO there is also a great danger that clients notice employee disengagement, which leads to dissatisfaction with your organization’s service. This is particularly the case for staff leasing BPOs or for Virtual Assistants (VAs) providers where clients work closely with your employees daily.
At the same time, you need to understand that if a major cause of quiet quitting is employee burnout, then you need to address that issue. Burnout is almost always caused by an employee having to overwork due to inefficiencies in the way an organization operates, poor culture which encourages employees to look busy rather than complete tasks, or understaffing which leads to too much demand being placed on employees. These are all productivity issues that can be solved by tracking how employees spend their workdays.
How serious is quiet quitting in terms of attrition?
You may be wondering whether quiet quitting is serious in terms of attrition, but not all quiet quitters leave a job outright. You won’t necessarily see an employee actively seeking to leave their role if they are disengaged.
Employees will take their working conditions into their own hands to reduce burnout and avoid extra work for which employers won’t pay them anyway. But is quiet quitting a serious issue in terms of employee attrition? Yes and no. It may affect retention rates if you don’t step in and discuss different means of re-engaging your employees and managing their workloads.
Burnout, which is often the cause of quiet quitting, does not necessarily lead to attrition. However, the issues we have already identified as the causes of burnout – inefficient processes, poor culture, understaffing – are generally signs of a business that could value its employees more. These underlying issues – to which quiet quitting is a reaction – are what will cause a higher than usual attrition rate.
Quiet quitting also kicks off a negative feedback cycle, where managers have to complete more work due to a lack of productivity and engagement from others. The same is true for other engaged workers, who must work even harder to take on the duties of quiet quitters, leading to burnout or a lack of morale and, in the long run, even higher attrition.
Human resources and talent acquisition teams in the BPO industry know how difficult it is to constantly replace employees who leave. Quiet quitting may be a particular concern in the business process outsourcing sector since the industry’s attrition rate has climbed up to between 32% and 45% in 2020. If yours is at that level, then you probably have productivity issues you could address.
The issue is compounded if you are unable to identify your quiet quitters or those in danger of leaving the business, because it becomes difficult to know when you need to begin the recruitment process.
Which methods should you use to mitigate quiet quitting?
There are three fundamental methods you should use to mitigate quiet quitting. These methods include communication, showing recognition, and considering ways to enhance your employees’ work-life balance.
1. Communicate with your outsourced employees about additional responsibilities
Not all employees are seeking to take on additional responsibilities. You must communicate with your team members to determine whether their ambitions align with the tasks you want to offer them. Avoid shifting managerial or leadership responsibilities to employees if they don’t want to complete such tasks.
Many BPOs have seasonal spikes in activity that they have to handle. For example, outsourced contact center operators usually have to cope with increased volumes of calls during the peak retail season, which runs from November to early January in most countries. Accounting and finance BPOs have peaks around tax season in the countries they serve, and so on.
If staff are expected or required to work additional hours, or take on additional workloads, even if temporarily, then managers need to tell employees beforehand why this is the case and explain how long it will last and what the benefits will be to employees.
2. Recognize your employees’ achievements
Employee disengagement is often rooted in a lack of recognition for their completed tasks. If you overlook your employees’ achievements, they will begin to lack motivation. Consider methods to reward and recognize your employees’ accomplishments. While salary increases, additional bonuses, and growth opportunities (if desired) are welcomed by employees, simple recognition from their managers and peers that they are doing a good job goes a long way to improving employee engagement.
Employees that don’t feel recognized are twice as likely to leave the company. Public recognition of performance is a great morale booster. Use incentive programs, performance dashboards that are visible to management and employees’ peers, as well as recognition schemes like performer of the week to encourage performance and participation.
3. Enhancing your employees’ work-life balance
As we have seen, burnout is a major cause of quiet quitting, which may lead to higher attrition. We also know that BPOs can have seasonal activity peaks that place additional expectations and workloads on staff. Even if these are only temporary, they can still cause burnout.
Tracking your employees’ work-life balance means understanding the hours they are working so that you can identify who is working more hours than usual or working outside of their normal hours – for example evenings or weekends. You can then take steps to understand why that is and address any underlying inefficiencies that are exacerbating the problem. You may also want to offer more flexible working hours or hybrid working conditions to better facilitate your employees’ work-life balance.
Reduce quiet quitting among your employees with ease
Quiet quitting is usually a sign of burnout and employee disengagement. For BPOs it can lead to higher attrition, reduced billings, lower margins, and client dissatisfaction if not nipped in the bud.
To reduce it you need to understand it. You can only do that if you have a way of measuring how your employees spend their time. Analyzing that data will enable your management and human resources teams to spot work-life balance issues that cause burnout before they happen and address the underlying issues in your organization that are causing employees to have to overwork in the first place.
The other thing to realize is that burnout in an employee is a sign that you have (or used to have) a good employee who was once willing to go the extra mile – that’s why they’re now burned out! If they’ve just run out of gas, it’s up to you as their employer to notice that and fill them up again.
Book a demo of Time Doctor or get started with a free trial and reduce quiet quitting effortlessly.