Tackling the cause of quiet quitting

Everyone is talking about quiet quitting. While the phrase sounds like it’s referring to someone subtly handing in their notice, it actually describes a growing rebellion against the hustle culture of going above and beyond the job a person is hired for.

This can take a number of forms, from a reduction in productivity to missing deadlines or meetings. People’s reasons can vary, but they may feel like their work/life balance is problematic, or that they’re experiencing burnout and disengagement. 

Quiet quitting and improving engagement:

Quiet firing trend suggests disengaged UK workers

The link between quiet quitting and toxic positivity

How to solve employee disengagement in the virtual workplace

The rise of this trend has come as companies are struggling to engage and retain their employees. A recent Gallup Global Workplace Report for 2022 found that just 9% of the UK workforce are currently feeling engaged and enthusiastic about their work, putting the country in 33rd place out of 38 in Europe.

Recognising that quiet quitting is happening, is key for those in HR. But there are steps that leaders can take to increase employee engagement.

The key to this will lie in rooting a deeper sense of purpose within the company mission, and cultivating a more human experience in every day work. Companies that can successfully do this, will stand a better chance at increasing retention, by building stronger motivation and happiness among teams.

Today, we’re living in a mission-driven era; one in which people are seeking a greater sense of purpose in their lives, and that includes work. People want to feel good and personally connected to what they do; and more than ever, they want to see that their contributions make an impact.

With this, employees' social contracts are changing. While pay will always be important, working purely in exchange for financial compensation, is over. Instead, people are seeking a more personal alignment with the company they work for.

To tackle this, businesses will need to unlock a deeper purpose, and land on a company mission that closely aligns with both their business and talent strategy. For example, at Dropbox, our mission to design a more enlightened way of working – by building tools for distributed teams – aligns with our 'virtual first' strategy. Our people are building and living our products as they rely on them in our remote model of work. 

However, clear communication and skilful leadership will be needed, to help join up the dots so that employees buy in and see themselves as part of the company’s future.

An employee’s engagement is also tied to how valued they feel within an organisation. People need to feel that they can bring their whole selves to work, and that they’ll be supported at an individual level.

One of our core values at Dropbox is to 'make work human' – and for us, this comes back to fostering a culture of acceptance, flexibility and keeping communication and collaboration at the core of how we work.

A key part of this lies in enabling employees to shape their own day and tune into when they feel most motivated and engaged. For example, at Dropbox we’ve fully embraced the non-linear workday, and have empowered our teams to set their own ‘core-collaboration hours’. These are four-hour windows, reserved for live meetings and collaborative working, which are clearly communicated and respected by colleagues.

By carving out clear, set windows of time for asynchronous and real-time collaboration, our employees have been able to work more effectively with their peers around the world, while gaining back precious time to focus on their work, passion projects and personal lives. 

Ultimately, initiatives like this help to create an environment in which people can finally say goodbye to traditional working schedules. Whether they’re early birds, night owls or parents who wish to schedule around the school run, people can find better harmony when they have the autonomy to design their day around their individual needs.

In today’s world of remote work, we’ve got more tech and tools at our disposal than ever before. And many of these can play an important role in reducing the 'work about work'. Whether it’s searching for a lost document, chasing for updates, or sifting through a long list of notifications – it’s this type of activity that slows us down, zaps creativity and prevents us from focusing on what really matters.

For example, collaborative screen-recording tech, such as Dropbox Capture, can help teams to work asynchronously. By allowing individuals to contribute at a time that best suits their schedule, teams can cut back on meetings, streamline the sharing of information and distribute the workload, reducing the pressure on any single person. 

Having the right tech is key when it comes to providing employees with the environment to do their best work. However, it’s important to remember that we must house all these technologies within one organised place. Only then will employees be able to silence the noise of busy tech and manage multiple workflows in an orderly way. 

Ultimately, companies that can create a space for employees – in which they’re free from distractions and the stress of multiple applications – will find their employees more enlightened, focused and engaged.


Laura Ryan is international director of HR at Dropbox