The phrase quiet quitting has officially entered the chatroom. The term is used to describe employees doing the bare minimum to remain employed, and is certainly not new to the workforce.
We’ve all known colleagues who barely show up for work even when they actually show up for work. But recently quiet quitting has been making headlines for being a response to post-pandemic burnout—a very real, very alarming result of three years of work and life uncertainty.
In fact, according to a 2023 Workplace Burnout Survey by Deloitte, 77% of respondents note that they have experienced burnout in their current job at some point in time, including 86% of remote workers and 70% of in-person workers. That same survey found that 49% of employers had no formal strategy for addressing burnout even though 57% believed that burnout directly affected their company’s turnover and retention rates.
The causes of burnout vary—from the inability to unplug from the office when not on the time clock (particularly felt among remote workers), to anxiety over health care costs or a lack of purpose-driven work. And the costs are real: burned-out employees are 63% more likely to take a sick day and more than 2.5 times more likely to seek a different job. In fact, U.S. businesses lose an estimated $300 billion annually thanks to burnout and its symptoms.
But there are steps that businesses can take to combat burnout. According to Spring Health—a company that works with businesses to improve employee well-being—some of the strategies employers can implement, include:
1. Setting limits and expectations for work time. Keep phone calls, meetings, emails and texts to work hours—don’t expect your employees to be available to you 24/7. Ensure that your employees are taking vacation time to relax and recharge. Insist on break times during the day to allow employees to step away from the task at hand. Offer the opportunity to work remotely when possible. Provide mental health days, in addition to sick or vacation time-off.
2. Clearly defining workloads. Have a list of job responsibilities that sets expectations—and stick with them. Don’t reward high performers with additional workloads. Superior work performance should not translate to unfair work burdens.
3. Listening. Encourage open communication between management and employees so that employees can honestly talk to leadership when they are feeling overwhelmed. Then, they can work toward a solution together that addresses the employee’s unique circumstances.
4. Being fair. Be vigilant about creating a work environment that does not value one employee or department over others.
Employee burnout and its costs can be managed. But it must be done proactively and thoughtfully—before the employee has one foot out the door.