‘Quiet Quitting’: Time to reset working practices?

Published on: 14/09/2022

#Contracts

The controversial practice of ‘quiet quitting’ in the workplace has recently hit the headlines, but what does it mean, and will it have long-lasting effects? 

How is ‘quiet quitting’ considered in the workplace? 

‘Quiet quitting’ is an application of work-to-rule, where employees work defined hours and make a discretionary decision to do what they need to get done, and not work longer hours or outside the boundaries of the job requirements. This attitudinal shift seems to have resulted from employees being or feeling overworked over the past 2 years throughout the Pandemic, particularly where employees have reflected on their changing priorities and aspirations for a better work-life balance, whilst seeking to avoid burn-out. 

It is clear is that ‘quiet quitting’ is a personal choice that employees are making, where they feel they have been pushed too far or are finding it increasingly difficult to disconnect from their workplace. This may been the case particularly where employees have constantly worked from home or remotely in a pressurised working environment over the past two years, where the lines are being blurred between their workplace and home life.  

On the other hand, it may demonstrate a lack of motivation and ambition, and acceptance to not commit to the role, and therefore risks not being promoted or rewarded financially by their employer. In the long-term, it may even result in performance concerns. 

It seems that ‘quiet quitting’ has resulted from many taking on additional responsibilities but not being rewarded for these financially. 

What does your employment contract say? 

Employees have implied obligations; the relevant terms being: the duty to be ready and willing to work; the duty not to disrupt the employer’s business; the duty to obey lawful and reasonable orders; and the duty to be adaptable. In addition to this, some employees will have express terms in their contracts stating that they may be required to undertake other duties from time to time as the employer may reasonably require. Arguably, in these situations, where an employee may be required to undertake a task which is beyond their contractual hours and chooses not to do this; they may be in breach of their contract. 

What can employers and employees do? 

There are many things both employers and employees can do to reduce the need for employees to feel they need to ‘quiet quit’ and rebuild on the mutual trust of understanding:  

  • Communicating with each other to better understand their concerns and encourage employees to speak openly if they have concerns in the role. 
  • If employees feel that the challenging work environment is having an impact on their mental or physical health, ensuring that they have the right support in place. This could come in the form of an adjustment to working hours, equipment or duties, or a referral to Occupational Health if needed to obtain medical advice. 
  • Checking in with employees on a regular basis – this could be through weekly catch-up calls to check capacity levels and/or arranging ‘social’ calls or events to help break up the day and encourage open communication. 
  • Reward hard work with positive feedback to keep employees engaged. 
  • Industry-permitting, trying different work arrangements, i.e. hybrid working to encourage face-to-face communication. 
  • Discuss and set longer-term targets with employees – to assist with development and promotional opportunities employees could aspire for and keep employees motivated. 

Overall, open and genuine communication between employee and employer is key to ensuring that both understand their respective positions and seeing if there is a way forward for the employee to remain motivated in the role, rather than opting for ‘quiet quitting’. 

If you require further advice on this topic, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our employment law team. 

Disclaimer

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking professional and legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.