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How will ‘quiet quitting’ impact deskless workplaces – and what can you do about it?

What is 'quiet quitting' and what can organisations with deskless workforces do to combat it? Read our blog to find out more

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Following ‘The Great Resignation’ and ‘The Great Realignment’ comes another buzz term: quiet quitting. What does it mean for roster-driven, shift-based (or “deskless”) workplaces – and should you be concerned?

What is quiet quitting and is it more than a passing fad?

What is quiet quitting and why has it suddenly emerged from nowhere? The term was coined in a TikTok video by a user named ‘zkchillin’ and has since gone viral. He was quick to share his thoughts on quiet quitting: “You’re still performing your duties, but you’re no longer subscribing to the hustle culture mentality that work has to be your life.”

In reality, ‘quiet quitting’ is not a new phenomenon. It weaves two well-known HR concepts together: presenteeism – being physically present at work just to look dedicated, no matter how unproductive you may be – and discretionary effort, which is the desired outcome of an engaged, happy workforce.

While quiet quitting might be easy to dismiss this as yet another internet-driven fad, it has highlighted a serious problem facing many employers. After more than two years of relentless disruption, employees have had enough. However, instead of quitting outright, as they may have done in the past, they are staying with their existing employer and doing the bare minimum to stay out trouble and stay employed. There is no more ‘going above and beyond’ for their employer; instead, it’s a case of stepping back and attempting to reach a better work-life balance.

With the global economic outlook for the next 12 months quite grim, it’s likely this phenomenon will only gain traction as employees stay with their ‘tried and tested’ current employer rather than jump ship.

What has contributed to quiet quitting?

In many cases, frontline industries such as healthcare have suffered through a tumultuous three years. COVID-19 and its aftermath – including lockdowns, travel restrictions, acute skills shortages and less than ideal work environments – has resulted in overworked, overstretched workers and, in some cases, employee burnout. In addition, many organisations froze pay rises and paused promotions. However, workloads and responsibilities have increased. Add the context of skyrocketing cost of living expenses and general economic decline and it’s no surprise that many employees are questioning the amount of effort they put into their work.

According to a global survey by Gartner, 50% of respondents said they either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that COVID-19 had changed their expectations of their employer. In addition, 65% said they either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that COVID-19 had made them rethink the place that work should have in their life.

How does quiet quitting affect the workforce?

The pressures mentioned above are having a negative impact on employee sentiment and engagement. 2022 research from Gallup revealed that most employees are either not engaged or are actively disengaged. The percentage of employees who are ‘actively disengaged’ globally has hovered around 17% for the past decade. The percentage of workers globally who are engaged is just 20%, which is the same as that seen in Australia and New Zealand. In the UK the situation is more dire: just 11% are engaged.

Purely from a financial standpoint, disengaged workers are costly. Sources estimate that disengagement is estimated to cost a company 34% of the employee’s salary. On a median salary of AU$1748 per week (AU$98,000 per year) that is AU$33,320 per year.

Business leaders have known about the benefits of having an engaged workforce for years. It results in greater productivity, reduced absenteeism, better customer service and workplace safety, and generally healthier, happier employees. Today, engagement initiatives and the creation of a reinvigorated employee experience should form the backbone of any attraction and retention strategy in 2022.

How can Humanforce help? Our employee engagement software helps bolster engagement efforts by making it easier for managers to recognise and reward great work, as well as enhancing one-on-one and team-wide communications. Read our blog to discover more about enhancing the overall employee experience.


An unfortunate side-effect of tough economic times is presenteeism. As workers fear for the stability of their jobs, they show up to work because they want to prove they can tough it out and excel, even if they are bordering on burnout, or are legitimately too sick to work (for example, if they have COVID-19). This is damaging for a number of reasons.

For one thing, work output declines when the hours worked increases. One Stanford University study found that productivity per hour declines sharply when a person works more than 50 hours a week. After 55 hours, productivity drops so much that putting in any more hours would be pointless. In addition, those who work up to 70 hours a week are only getting the same amount of work done as those who put in the 55 hours.

Just as detrimental are the feelings of resentment that can build in employees, who may blame their employer for expecting workers to be on call all the time. It’s a recipe for quiet quitting.

4 tips to avoid the quiet quitting phenomenon

Rather than believing quiet quitting is unavoidable and will have a detrimental impact on your workforce, instead use the phenomenon as an excuse to do things better. It’s a chance to go back to basics and re-configure the employee experience for a new era. Here are four ways that leaders of deskless workplaces can reduce the likelihood of quiet quitting gaining ground.

1.     Think about your ‘total rewards’ package

Pay rises may be off the cards for many employers, but that doesn’t mean employees can’t be rewarded in other ways. A total rewards package takes a holistic view of everything that you, as an employer, can offer to an employee. While remuneration is a key component, it’s not the be-all and end-all. There are a number of things employers can offer. For example: career progression that aligns with their goals; training and development opportunities; having great managers to guide employees; time to pursue personal goals; extra study or parental leave; or coaching/mentoring opportunities.

2.     Adequately resource your teams

This is easier said than done. Some industries, such as child care, aged care and hospitality are suffering from acute skills shortages. However, creating an environment where workloads are sustainable is critical. It’s hard to do your best work when you’re constantly overworked, stressed and worried about whether you’ll need to fill in for absent peers. Workforce management software providers such as Humanforce, who specialise in rostering, time & attendance and absence management for deskless workers, can help managers optimise how talent is used. Our rostering software in particular can help avoid employee burnout and ensure staff receive appropriate rest periods – all while improving the employee experience by providing better work-life balance and enabling workers to match work schedules to their personal circumstances.

3.     Listen to employees

Whether it takes the form of formal engagement surveys, shorter pulse surveys or informal chats with managers, it’s critical to listen to what employees are telling you. What motivates them? Are they struggling? Is juggling work with personal life getting too much? Perhaps there are things happening outside of work – such as financial hardship – which are impacting work performance? It might be that someone is no longer feeling challenged by work, in which case a casual chat with a manager may lead to the exploration of other roles, including the learning opportunities that may be available to equip the employee for future roles.

4.     Find out what motivates employees

This can act as the spark for improving the situation – but be mindful that typical motivators have also shifted in recent years, as seen in this table:

checklist of job attributes

It’s important to note that this is not just about the work environment. In addition, many of these things – like a sense of purpose – can’t be bundled into a perks and benefits package; they must be communicated and regularly reinforced by an engaging manager. Deloitte noted the importance of purpose during the height of COVID-19 in 2020: “Organisations that embraced purpose were able to shift through competing priorities, unite workers under common conditions, drive belonging and focus on their most pressing organisational and societal goals.”

Keeping in mind that just like any relationship, the employer/employee relationship is a two-way street, managers should also be encouraged to understand workers as human beings and to treat them as stakeholders of their own future. The end result will be more engaged and more productive employees.

For further insights on how to calculate the cost of employee disengagement and how to improve engagement in your organisation, click here to download Humanforce’s eBook.

How Humanforce can help

Humanforce is a leading provider of shift-based workforce management solutions that simplify onboarding, scheduling, time and attendance, employee engagement, and communication. Customers in more than 23 countries use Humanforce to optimise costs, realise compliance confidence, empower their team, and drive growth. Humanforce was founded in Sydney in 2002, and today has offices across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, and the UK.

Learn more about how Humanforce can automate and simplify workforce management processes in your organisation. Contact us or schedule a demo.