What Drives Quiet Quitting

If last year was all about efficiency, this year is shaping up to be all about speed.  We’re fielding loads of questions from leadership groups looking to understand how to accelerate the velocity of their teams – and remove anything (or anyone) slowing them down.

Quiet Quitting inevitably comes up as a drag on organizational velocity.  Specifically, a lot of leaders continue to worry about Quiet Quitting among remote workers – when an employee “checks out” and starts doing the bare minimum amount of work to get by. 

At the forefront of these discussions is the suspicion that remote employees are getting less done compared to their in-office counterparts.  [Yes, that’s despite a considerable amount of research showing otherwise.]  So, we set out to investigate whether this suspicion holds true and what factors may contribute to it.

Fears of Quiet Quitting are Overblown

To answer this question, we analyzed trends in anonymous work activity data from several thousand knowledge workers. We looked at factors such as volume of communication with team members, estimates of workday span (time from last to first activity of the day) and raw output activity such as Google Docs edits and code commits. 

Our goal was to understand whether there were any employee cohorts that appear to be significantly less active than peers since their organization adopted remote work. We also cleaned the data to rule out any instances of extended leave or similar confounding factors.

Our findings revealed that fears of widespread Quiet Quitting may be overblown.  Less than 1-2% of remote workers have activity levels significantly lower than when they were on-site and within the range of what we would consider disengagement.  Quiet Quitting doesn’t appear to be as rampant a problem as it’s described in the media.  

Manager Engagement is a Key Driver of Quiet Quitting

To provide additional insight into this phenomenon we segmented the data by department. Interestingly, this showed that the issue appears to be more concentrated in certain areas than others – indicating that certain common factors such as leadership, culture, or work type may be driving Quiet Quitting behaviors.

To understand the factors influencing Quiet Quitting, we looked at cohorts of employees where this phenomenon was more prevalent and worked to identify potential underlying drivers.

We found that low Manager Engagement is a  significant predictor of lower engagement.  When managers spent relatively little time interacting (< 30 minutes / week) with remote employees, these ICs were multiple times more likely to become disengaged. This correlation underscores the critical role that managers play as the primary conduit for maintaining connection and engagement - especially within remote teams.

In addition the risk associated with remote work lies in the gradual detachment of employees from the company culture and mission.  Without proactive and connected managers, this detachment can manifest in Quiet Quitting – employees “checking out” from the company. 

Given this, what can organizations do to address and prevent Quiet Quitting among their remote workforce? Here are some actionable steps:

  • Engage Managers:  Provide training & ongoing support to help managers understand how to engage & coach remote team members.  
  • Encourage Regular 1:1s:  Hold managers accountable for having regular 1:1s with all employees.  We recommend meeting at least biweekly.
  • Promote Facetime:  Whenever possible, encourage remote employees to participate in face-to-face interactions, whether through video calls, team retreats, or occasional visits to the office.
  • Be Intentional About Time in Office:  Coordinate schedules to ensure that remote employees have opportunities to interact with their managers and colleagues when they visit the office, minimizing the risk of missed connections.
  • Utilize Metrics: Implement metrics to gauge the degree of manager engagement with remote teams, providing insights into potential areas of improvement and intervention.

The lesson here is clear:  If you’re concerned about Quiet Quitting, you should start doing more to increase Manager Engagement.

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