What firms are doing to address quiet quitting

Companies are looking to collaboration and wellness initiatives to reengage employees

September 06, 2022

Employees are being accused of doing the bare minimum to get by, a trend dubbed quiet quitting that has bubbled up in the wake of huge disruptions to the how and where people work.

The viral phenomenon, popularized by TikTok creator Zaid Khan, claims that while people are still performing their assigned tasks at work, they are rarely going above and beyond for reasons such as to avoid burnout or to prioritize their mental wellbeing.

It represents a stark shift away from the so-called hustle culture that previously embodied success at work. To be sure, the phrase is broad, and evidence is largely anecdotal.

But since the pandemic, employees have become increasingly disengaged.

One-third of employees feel disenchanted by the changes in the transformation of work, while nearly a quarter of employees would consider leaving their jobs if they no longer feel recognized by the company, according to JLL’s Workforce Preferences Barometer.

“The feeling of disenchantment and the lack of recognition can be attributed to the increase in workload and the feeling of isolation when working from home even now,” says Martin Hinge, Head of Project and Development Services, Asia Pacific, JLL.

The new trend piles pressure on companies to solve problems that arose from the pandemic, which upended traditional work routines and altered employees’ expectations of the office.

Redesigning the office

Many companies are counting on a return to the office to reverse the quiet quitting trend. For that to happen, however, changes that make the office more conducive — such as the choice of workspaces, office acoustics, and a stronger focus on wellness initiatives — are seen as key.

The quiet quitting phenomenon comes at a time when companies have been actively stepping up efforts to enhance the workplace experience through office activation, technology, and design.

That’s because some disconnect can come from the office itself. According to JLL’s Hybrid Work Decoded report, there is now a significant gap between the expectations of hybrid workers and the workplace experience currently delivered to them.

In response, up to 56% of organizations are already planning to refit or redesign their office space in the next 12 months, according to senior HR professionals surveyed by JLL.

Listening to employees

“There’s no easy fix with office design because every office, every company, and every country are markedly different,” says Hinge. “Research-based design is needed to understand what employees want to do in the office and what they expect from the office.”

Redesigning goes beyond “putting up a potted plant or painting the wall blue”, he says, so listening to employees’ preferences and knowing which aspect of the office to tackle is paramount.

“Companies have to focus on what enables the experience that employees get when they come through the door till the time they leave,” says Hinge. “You have to understand what they like doing, seeing, and hearing so you can keep them coming back again.”

For instance, one of the most under-delivered aspects of the office experience according to employees is the quality of acoustics, JLL data shows. The lack of sound privacy and excessive noise levels, especially in open areas and hot-desking workstations, are affecting the workplace experience for some.

“Employees have gotten used to working at home where they can control the environment in a dedicated space, much like having their own office,” says Hinge.

This transition back to the office will take some getting used to, also partly because the role of the office is changing.

“What we see is that the [office] space is used in a very different way,” says Christian Ulbrich, JLL Global CEO and President, during a recent interview with Yahoo Finance. “We had, before the pandemic, a lot of ‘me’ space, and now we have a lot of ‘we’ space because the main priority is to collaborate.”

Having an adequate selection of workspaces, including outdoor spaces, creative spaces, networking spaces, and learning spaces, is therefore essential to accommodate different employee needs.

Wellness in the workplace

Beyond office design, wellbeing initiatives are also a key area where employees want to feel more supported by their employers, according to those surveyed by JLL.

“This goes to show that office design is only complementary, but it isn’t the sole factor that addresses quiet quitting,” says Hinge.

Possible solutions to address the lack of wellbeing initiatives include offering free mental health assessments or incorporating therapeutic spaces and biophilia to support the wellness experience in the office, Hinge says.

With the quiet quitting phenomenon gaining steam, every move contributes to the reversal of the trend, so focusing on how the office experience influences employee behavior is the priority.

“Organizations have to address this from a behavioral point of view. It’s all about human behavior, human interaction, and how employees feel,” says Hinge.

“In this sense, office design is more of an enabler alongside office activation and technology, all which are equally essential in elevating the workplace experience, bringing employees back to the office, and ultimately reversing quiet quitting.”

Redesigning your office for the hybrid workplace?

Gain fresh insights from senior HR professionals across Asia Pacific.