Quiet quitting: a noisy wake-up call to employers #NationalStressAwarenessDay

by | Nov 2, 2022

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In light of today being National Stress Awareness Day, Dr. Rebecca Swift, Global Head of Creative Insights at Getty Images and iStock, discusses the trend of “quiet quitting” – which refers to employees only doing the work they are paid to do, and not taking on additional work or responsibilities. Dr. Rebecca Swift comments on what companies and business leaders can do about this and specifically why younger generations (Gen Z and Millenials) are feeling the need to reclaim the work-life balance.  

Amid the rise of “quiet quitting” and with it questions on how business owners or HR and internal communications leads should react, our VisualGPS research shows that the majority of both UK and global consumers feel anxious about the future. Amid war, recession, increased cost of living, fear of a new pandemic, etc., it’s understandable why people’s outlook for the future leans towards the pessimistic. 

This “loud” context has certainly had an impact on what’s been described as “quiet” behavior. However, there’s nothing quiet about this new drive for people to reclaim their work-life balance, on the contrary, it feels like a very noisy wake-up call to employers. This quitting of the hustle and bustle of work culture proves once more the need to acknowledge the important role mental health plays in people’s daily lives— especially when it comes to their job. 

While some quiet quitters are looking to detach their identities from their working life, this doesn’t mean that they want to completely disengage from their professional lives. According to our research, 30% of people in the UK strongly agree it is important to them to have a job/career that they are passionate about. This percentage only increases as generations get younger. 45% believe a successful life is one in which their physical, mental, and emotional needs are being met. And although job/career success is not the top priority for most, financial security is non-negotiable, with 55% of Gen Z and Millenials prioritising it above all else. Nearly 80% of UK consumers are not willing to give up their financial success for a balanced life, meaning only 20% actually are. 

The research therefore shows that job and financial security and physical and mental health appear to be the determining factors for employers to address in order to undermine quiet quitting worst scenarios: full disengagement and employee burnout. 

The current demand to take employees’ wellbeing more seriously represents an extra pressure to Internal Comms leads, HR departments and small business owners. It’s crucial they start by fighting common misconceptions like the only way to succeed professionally is by pushing personal limits, or that a person’s value is measured by their productive output. Acknowledging that work shouldn’t have to be a fundamental part of your employee’s identity is a great starting point to recognise their demand for a better work-life balance.

We observe that pre-pandemic the classic way to balance work and self was to leave the office. Now, younger generations are working at home and are struggling with defining their own work-life balance. The research tells us that quitting, most popular among Gen Z and Millennials, is a way for younger workers to reconfigure old ways of work learnt to shape new ones; ways that help them reconcile with their mental and physical health in this new working environment.

We have found that in order to encourage healthy practices in the workplace, images and videos that reflect happy relaxed employees, showing “life at work” as daytime activity, and showing employees in physically safe environments is a good way for a business to show that they care about employee wellbeing. 

Recommendations include representing staff taking breaks, decompressing alone, or checking in with colleagues via video chat (something that is not often visualised) instead of focusing on the traditional tropes of staff busy at work. Peace of mind and taking mental health seriously will resonate particularly with younger generations, for example through stress management techniques and meditation. The need for a work life balance that has been highlighted since the pandemic and is manifesting itself in phenomena such as quiet quitting will change the way companies visualise the world of work for the future.

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