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Quiet quitting – a rising trend in the workplace?

4-minute read

A young gen z employee bored on her laptop may be quiet quitting
Rosanna Parrish

Rosanna Parrish

11 October 2023

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Quiet quitting is the latest buzzword in the workplace – especially surrounding Gen Z employees. But what does it mean? And is it really a new concept? The answer might surprise you.

With the latest data showing that 23 per cent of small business owners are holding off hiring new employees, it’s more important than ever that our staff feel valued and engaged in the workplace.

Keep reading to find out exactly what quiet quitting means, whether you have anything to worry about, and how you can prevent it.

What is quiet quitting?

You might hear the term quiet quitting and think you’ll need to start writing a new job advertisement to replace a leaving employee – but this isn’t the case. Quiet quitting means an employee is only doing the bare minimum in their role.

The goal of quiet quitting is putting in the minimum effort required to keep your job, but no longer volunteering to go above and beyond in your role or only working your contracted hours.

This trend is a hot topic of conversation as more and more people stress the importance of wellbeing and a healthy work-life balance. It’s sometimes known as ‘acting your wage’.

An example of quiet quitting is doing your assigned work but not volunteering for additional work, or perhaps not working overtime. In a small business, this could have consequences on business operations – but how do you make sure you’re creating a healthy workplace environment where work gets done but your staff feel appreciated?

Quiet quitting – small business examples

Quiet quitting isn’t just prevalent in the corporate world, it may be happening in your small business. Here are some examples of quiet quitting in a small business environment:

  • you may own a small restaurant and consistently rely on your staff to work unpaid overtime when its busy – by refusing to stay late, your staff may be quiet quitting
  • if you ask your receptionist to make regular sales calls (which they may not be comfortable with) they could quiet quit by only completing their contracted responsibilities
  • asking a worker in your construction company to make deliveries in their own vehicle on a weekend wouldn’t be included in their official duties – so refusing would be an example of quiet quitting

Work-to-rule – what's the difference?

Whilst quiet quitting is a new term, it isn’t a new concept. The idea of doing the bare minimum in your role (often to prove a point about the value you bring to a company) used to be known as work-to-rule.

Work-to-rule is a method used throughout history by unions to disrupt operations. The idea is that whilst you follow every duty laid out in your contract, you don’t take on any additional work. As many businesses rely on additional effort or overtime, this can severely disrupt a company’s day to day work.

In the UK, postal workers have employed work-to-rule on multiple occasions. Whilst postal workers would often do unpaid overtime in order to make their deliveries and carry bags heavier than specified in health and safety guidelines, this wasn’t an official part of their job role.

When pay disputes arise, postal workers will often employ work-to-rule to show the value they bring to their roles.

So whilst quiet quitting as a term was popularised online in 2022, the idea behind it has been a proven tactic for workers for generations.

The backlash against quiet quitting – is it a bad thing?

But is quiet quitting really a bad thing? And as employers, should we be expecting our employees to take on additional responsibilities and work longer hours? Whilst it’s natural to want your business to perform its best, it’s equally important to care for your employees’ wellbeing.

We should be encouraging our staff to have a healthy work-life balance. Not only is this beneficial for our employees – but it can also benefit our businesses. Keep reading to see how you can help to avoid quiet quitting in your business.

Whilst all businesses are different, here are three ways you can help to combat the trend of quiet quitting in your business by keeping your team engaged and appreciated.

How to avoid quiet quitting in your business

Encourage a healthy work-life balance

Understand the rules surrounding working time directive breaks. Your employees are legally entitled to:

  • work no more than 48 hours work a week
  • 5.6 weeks of paid annual leave
  • 11 consecutive rest hours in every 24 hour period
  • 20 minute rest breaks for working days longer than six hours
  • at least one day off a week (or two days off every fortnight)

Your employees should also only be working their contracted hours – and not regularly completing unpaid overtime.

A new study from Small Business Prices revealed that the UK ranks 11th for work-life balance – with workers doing approximately 22 working days worth of (often unpaid) overtime a year.

Reward your employees

Your employees should never feel undervalued in their role, which can lead to a decrease in productivity and an increase in staff turnover. Workplace perks and benefits can help keep your people happy at work.

Check out our guide for some ideas on rewarding your employees and how this can improve your company culture.

Promote and encourage learning opportunities

Whether it’s training courses, job shadowing, or an employee development plan, it’s important to show your staff you care about their development. Some ways you can do this include:

  • regular one-to-ones, appraisals, and development meetings
  • gathering regular feedback

  • clearly stating your mutual expectations for the role

  • transparency surrounding salary

So if you expect one of your employees is quiet quitting, think about why that may be and how you can help them feel more appreciated and engaged in their role.

Do you think quiet quitting is a good or bad thing in the workplace? And should employers be expecting their employees to go above and beyond in their roles? Let us know in the comments below.

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Photo: 1st footage/
Rosanna Parrish

Written by

Rosanna Parrish

​​Rosanna Parrish is a Copywriter at Simply Business, specialising in legal and HR content. Trained at London College of Communication, she has been creating content professionally for eight years at publications across the UK and Spain. Starting her career in health insurance, she also worked in education marketing before returning to the insurance world. Rosanna also writes about wellbeing in the workplace. She lives by the sea and does her best writing in coffee shops.

We create this content for general information purposes and it should not be taken as advice. Always take professional advice. Read our full disclaimer

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