Major news publications like the The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have identified a new topic of discussion among workers: “quiet quitting.” The idea is that employees are de-prioritizing work and either working less or coasting when they do work to only perform the bare minimum duties to keep their jobs.
This development is problematic for employers, so what can human resources do now to protect itself from the quiet quitters?
1. Update Job Descriptions
The pandemic has changed many workers’ job duties, and often job descriptions lag behind. If employees are performing the bare minimum, employers should define those minimums in the job descriptions. Look at your existing job descriptions, and ask: if the employee did all the things spelled out in this document, would they be an asset to the organization? If the answer is no, it is time to update the job description.
Job descriptions should spell out the essential functions of the job, expected hours of work, and whether in-person work is required. If the job requires in-person work, the job description should include a list of functions that can only be performed at the office. In addition to quiet quitting, there is anecdotal evidence of an increase in requests for accommodations to work from home, and employers who may want to push back on those requests are better positioned to do so if their job descriptions already establish the need to be in the office.
If you have not reviewed job descriptions in the past year, now is the time to do it.
2. Proactively Manage and Document Performance Issues
Employers should not bury their heads in the sand and hope this discussion will go away. Instead, they should address it head on and encourage managers to identify disengaged employees early. Once identified, if the employee is not performing his or her job, managers should document performance issues and follow their disciplinary action process. Simultaneously (or prior to disciplinary action), managers should talk through concerns with employees and brainstorm solutions that will help the employees become re-engaged in their jobs and the organization.
3. Be Creative About Employee Engagement
This movement is rooted in employee burnout. Employers may want to consider creative alternatives to improve employee engagement. For example, shorter workweeks or more flexibility in scheduling to allow people to pursue their outside interests may help energize employees when they are at work. Some employers have had success with extended company-wide holidays where the entire office shuts down for a week so employees can truly unplug during their time off. Another way is to reward employees who go the extra mile by incentivizing them with time off. Employers may also consider reinstating boundaries that may have been blurred due to remote work by limiting or discouraging after hours work. Employer policies and benefits are one of the most powerful tools to fight disengagement, so in addition to reviewing job descriptions, now is a good time to zoom out and re-evaluate why your workplace is a good place to work and identify ways to make it better for employees.
Kate Dewberry is a Partner with Poyner Spruill, LLP, Attorneys at Law, in Raleigh, North Carolina. In addition to Raleigh, the firm has three other office locations across North Carolina: Charlotte, Rocky Mount and Southern Pines.