If quiet quitters don’t want to quit, what do they really want?

Companies need to first understand why quiet quitting is happening before they can implement the right workplace changes

November 15, 2022

In the ‘new normal’, working from home, or from anywhere, has gotten considerably easier. Without the daily commute, hybrid workers can easily switch from the ‘bed to boardroom’ in a matter of minutes. But this convenience can come at a cost.

If not managed, the boundaries between employees’ work and personal lives can become increasingly blurred as employees feel they are toiling for longer hours than before, doing more work or attending more meetings, but for little to no additional recognition or benefit.

This has left some employees disengaged and others disenchanted, prompting them to reconsider the effort they’re putting in and eventually doing only what is contractually required of them.

This phenomenon, now better known as ‘quiet quitting’, reflects the long-term implications of ‘the new normal’ in the post-Covid era where hybrid working patterns are no longer an exception.

Companies can ill-afford to ignore this trend, particularly in the face of a looming recession where budgetary cuts could compound the challenge of implementing changes to the office.

Instead, companies need to reimagine the office with a people-first approach by finding ways to re-engage employees and deliver experiences that are otherwise not available remotely.

But before diving right into a revamp, taking time to learn and understand what employees really want out of the workplace experience is imperative.

What makes an ideal workplace?

One of the top questions to ask is: Are you adopting the right agile workplace models for your business and people needs?

Up to 55% of workers are primarily working in a hybrid way today, according to our Workforce Preferences Barometer. Yet while many companies have opted for hybrid working, not all have nailed the right proportion of working from home and from the office.

While JLL data suggests that employees in APAC expect to work more than half of the time in the office (2.7 days) in a typical working week, this average number doesn’t adequately reflect the varying needs of the different types of work.

Creative work, for instance, benefits from more collaboration in a “face-to-face” office environment, while written report work needs more focused quiet time and thus can benefit from a different working environment in the office or maybe at home. Companies therefore need to find the right balance and level of flexibility that aligns with how the teams work, and that suits their people’s needs.

When they are in the office, is the current environment adequately equipped to support them in performing the tasks they need to complete?

Our research has shown that there’s often a gap between employee expectations and what’s being delivered by companies in the workplace.

One of the most underdelivered aspects in the workplace, according to employees surveyed by JLL, is the access to a range of workspace options that suit their individual work needs. While our data shows that most people like to do focused work at home, they will spend more than half of their time on focused work in the office.

This goes to show that even as the office is being reinvented as a hub for collaboration and social interaction (think open-plan workstations and coworking spaces), we must ensure areas that offer sound privacy and low noise levels for individual focused work.

The right metrics

Being aware of your people’s needs is key, and so the level of understanding begs another important question: Are you tracking the right metrics and measuring what’s really important?

Part of the reason why companies are sometimes off the mark understanding employees has been a reliance on conventional metrics, such as costs and space per person to measure the workplace experience. These metrics have now evolved.

Our latest Metrics that Matter report highlights the equal importance of measuring human experience and performance in the workplace. This would entail gathering data points and feedback on metrics such as employee engagement, indoor environment quality, and availability of workspace options, before implementing an action plan around it and conducting regular purpose checks.

For instance, collecting indoor environmental data such as noise levels will offer a good indication on how well the office environment meets employees’ preferences for a conducive workplace.

With the talent war intensifying, companies who wish to attract and retain top talent could consider measuring aspirational metrics such as workforce resiliency to gain a deeper view on employee preferences of the workplace.

People first

Ultimately, we all need to exhibit strong leadership across the spectrum from encouraging people back to the office to providing the right environment for people to thrive.

Some companies, such as Swiss financial company Credit Suisse, have empowered local teams and line managers to agree on and adhere to working models rather than enforce a company-wide hybrid working mandate.

Others are going the extra mile for their people. Instead of bringing people back to the office, they are bringing the office to the people. In India, for instance, consulting firm Accenture set up new office locations for employees in tier-two cities as a means of offering greater flexibility on where they can work.

By putting people at the heart of all decisions, and asking the right questions, the trend of quiet quitting will likely die down — quietly, and maybe as quickly as it arrived.

Speak with a JLL expert to help you shape your people-first workplace strategy.