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What can you do about 'quiet quitting'?

'The Great Realignment' is following 'The Great Resignation'. The concept of 'working to live' as opposed to 'living to work' has become more widespread as a result of the pandemic. Time spent at home during lockdowns caused many people to stop and consider the impact of their commute, working hours and lack of professional boundaries on their personal lives and overall wellbeing. Many employees have since decided to reduce the importance they attach to their professional lives, in favour of family, friends and their mental, as well as their physical, well-being.

Quiet quitting is when an employee does the bare minimum to fulfil the requirements of their role. They won’t work extra hours or take on additional tasks. It can happen when employees feel that they are underpaid, undervalued or unappreciated.

You may also face this problem if your pay rises fall behind inflation.

You might be able to overcome quiet quitting to some extent by ensuring workloads are realistic, making staff feel valued and prioritising their mental health.

Working hours

Ensure workloads are realistic. If your contracts provide for compulsory overtime and an employee, then refuses to work it you can treat that as a breach of contract and commence disciplinary action. Before acting, check that your overtime request complies with:

  • The Working Time Regulations 1998 ('WTR') relating to the 48-hour average maximum working week.

  • WTR rules on minimum daily and weekly rest periods and rest breaks.

  • The national minimum wage (NMW) provisions. An employee’s average hourly rate must not fall below the NMW for the hours worked in a pay reference period.

The contracts of salaried staff often provide that they will work 'such additional hours above your normal hours of work as are reasonably necessary for the proper and effective performance of your duties and/or to meet the needs of the business'.

If the employee then refuses to work reasonable extra hours, and that has a detrimental impact on performance, you may be justified in disciplining them, but you’ll need clear evidence to support your disciplinary case. It’s better to start with an informal approach, pointing out the contractual wording and what it means for the employee’s role, and then exploring with them why they now appear to be less motivated and what you can do to rectify the issue.

Job Duties

If a job description includes a list of duties and responsibilities, check what it says against what you’ve asked the employee to do. If you’ve expressly reserved the right to vary the employee’s duties and responsibilities according to business needs, you can expect employees to perform additional tasks within their capabilities that are not demeaning.

Progression

Outline each employee's career path. People are more likely to be engaged when they have specific targets. Encourage and support employees to attend training to further their career development. Allowing employees to develop their skills will reinforce their connection to the business and keep them motivated. Training enforces a sense of trust with their employer.

Re-engage

Act positively to re-engage your workforce. Consider enhancing family leave entitlements, introducing menopausal and fertility concerns policies or even occasional 'bring your dog to work' days.

Manage effectively

Encourage your managers to find common ground with each member of their team, keep everyone updated on all aspects of work and encourage people to work collaboratively with collaborative working dynamics.

Regular one-to-one meetings during which employees feel able to discuss how they feel about their work and your business may help you to prevent a problem before you need to cure it.

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