Curated by: Sergio A. Martínez
What is the future of work? That is a question that virtually every organization, in both the private and public sectors, from software to manufacturing to service and everything in between, has been asking themselves since the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Agreeing on an opinion seems to be impossible, but what we are sure about is that our idea of “work” has changed dramatically, with new ideas, models, and philosophies getting discussed every day.
“Quiet quitting” is one such concept. After this term got popular on social media in 2022, the underlying meaning of “quiet quitting” started to elicit all kinds of opinions about what it means, going from those who see it favorably to those who see it as the norm (and nothing revolutionary), to even those against this attitude for a diversity of reasons. For those not in the know, “quiet quitting” means “performing the strict minimum requirements of a job within the allotted work hours”, a philosophy gaining supporters across all industries and with all kinds of workers and collaborators. And getting to the root of this line of thinking is not difficult to do.
“People are tired of being stifled by leaders who don’t trust or value them. If there’s no freedom to take a risk without fear of being punished for a bad result, then why take a risk? If there’s no acknowledgment of their capacity and no opportunity to contribute their full value, then why would they want to do more?”, says the analysis of Forbes Magazine in their article “The Cure For ‘Quiet Quitting’: Humanize Work”, which takes a look at the current job landscape and the factors that might push a worker into this mindset.
After all, it’s no secret that the current job market is becoming increasingly competitive, and people are finding it harder to get the jobs they want. At the same time, jobs are becoming more demanding, with some employers increasingly expecting employees to work longer hours for less pay, which not only causes a lot of stress and unhappiness among workers but also pushes them to question whether work is really worth it. Some people are even choosing to opt out of the traditional workforce altogether in favor of a more flexible lifestyle. This, in turn, is creating severe shortages in many fields that, with our current trajectory, will cause a lot of problems that will only continue to grow.
“I think this is old behavior under a new name and has always existed to some degree, but now it has a name”, continues Helen about the origins of quiet quitting. “It used to be a lot more common in other areas (for example, the public sector), where you could stop working at a certain hour and not have to worry about it. But in the software development industry, this issue is a lot more complex. The issue is how to measure the effectiveness and productivity of a team member. It’s easy to see someone who answers emails or does things outside of work hours as a good employee, but I don’t agree with that either. You are not giving your collaborators a complete work-life balance.”
The numbers don’t lie; according to the online publication Axios, “82% of Gen Zers say the idea of doing the minimum required to keep their jobs is pretty or extremely appealing”, and a good portion of them are already committing to that, bringing back the idea of “working to live” instead of the other way around, putting priorities like family, friends and even hobbies ahead of work as the norm.
Finding the right angle for an old challenge
“The thing about ‘quiet quitting’ is that it doesn’t describe a specific phenomenon, but many different situations with their own context. Maybe you are an effective person within your working hours, and not being available after you shut down your computer doesn’t mean you are not an engaged collaborator, delivering on time”, expresses Helena Matamoros, Head of Human Capital T Scio, about the increasing popularity of this term. “After all, it’s easy to see when a person is actually “quiet-quitting”; they miss deadlines, they are often unavailable during work hours, their emails go unanswered, they appear disengaged during meetings, or they don’t take advantage of anything extra the company offers, like social meetings or training courses. And even then, that attitude can sometimes be the result of burnout instead of active disinterest. Is a complex situation that the name ‘quiet quitting’ doesn’t completely describe.”
The thing is that, when trying to separate a good collaborator from a not-so-good one, past strategies don’t work anymore. In the old days, the traditional workplace was all about face time and being physically present in the office, but with the rise of technology, that’s no longer the case; good employees cannot be judged by how many hours they’re putting in at the office, but rather by the results they’re achieving. This can lead us to some myths about what an engaged employee is, harming more than helping engagement within the workplace:
First, good employees are always available.
As already discussed, with email and instant messaging, it’s expected that employees will be available outside of normal working hours. But that doesn’t mean those good employees are always glued to their devices. They know how to strike a balance between work and life, and they know when to unplug and take a break.
Second, good employees prioritize work above everything else.
Many people still believe that employees should put their jobs ahead of any other priorities, even if it means sacrificing their well-being. However, a smart workplace knows that employees thrive when they feel they are valued members of a team, and companies should focus on creating an environment where employees can have a good balance and feel supported and appreciated.
Third, good employees are always hyper-focused.
When it comes to working, it’s often seen as a good thing to be hyper-focused, with the ability to laser in on a task and get it done quickly and efficiently is generally viewed as a positive trait. But contrary to popular belief, employees who take breaks during the workday, or take time to socialize, are more productive than those who don’t. Likewise, employees who telecommute or work flexible hours are just as productive as those who work traditional nine-to-five schedules. In the end, it depends on the person and the rhythm they need to achieve good results.
“Seeing it from both sides, the employee and the employer, it all comes down to having a clear work culture within the organization that everybody can understand and adopt”, explains Helen, referencing how Scio tries to be flexible and offer resources to keep their collaborators as far from burnout or disengagement as possible, especially important when our company collaborates with remote developers and engineers from all over Latin America. “If you know what is expected of you, and what is acceptable or not for the company, it’s easier to identify if you are dealing with someone practicing quiet quitting. In the end, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but starting by debunking outdated myths and practices, any company can create an environment that is tailored to the needs of their employees.”
Pros and cons to both sides of the argument regarding “quiet quitting” remain relevant, however. On one hand, working strictly within your limits can help you to avoid burnout and to maintain a healthy work-life balance. On the other hand, it can also make you appear inflexible and unresponsive to the needs of the employer. And while in some cases working longer hours can help you to get ahead in your career, it can also lead to exhaustion and poor health, which could make such an effort too costly. Ultimately, what we can conclude is that this attitude is not something new, but its popularity is a symptom that flexibility and balance in the workplace are more important and appreciated than ever, and any company that supports and understands its collaborators doesn’t need much else to keep an engaged, productive, and motivated team always ready to give their all.
The Key Takeaways
- The term “quiet quitting”, while popular in social media, is not a new phenomenon, although it can be taken as a symptom of a larger issue.
- The main issue is that the term “quiet quitting” falls short when describing the wide range of attitudes and practices that come with working.
- What it points out is the increasing need to keep a better work-life balance, and quiet quitting and burnout can be the result of a lacking workplace.
- What really matters is the outcome achieved by every individual worker; with the correct support, keeping a collaborator engaged and motivated is far less difficult.
Scio is an established Nearshore software development company based in Mexico that specializes in providing high-quality, cost-effective technologies for pioneering tech companies. We have been building and mentoring teams of engineers since 2003 and our experience gives us access not only to the knowledge but also the expertise needed when tackling any project. Get started today by contacting us about your project needs – We have teams available to help you achieve your business goals. Get in contact today!