The workplace trends of a four-day work week and quiet quitting show that people are trying to make their voices heard and communicate that the way they currently work is not working for them.
The current level of exhaustion and burnout people have to deal with is also not helping.
- Advertisement -
In 2022 the world slowly found its feet after Covid-19, but people are still grappling with the repercussions of trauma, stress and burnout, on both a personal and professional level. Since 2020, we had to work harder than ever before.
Watch: How Gen Z is changing the workplace climate globally
“When we worked from home, we worked 14 hours a day and our boundaries between work and home were blurred. We were isolated from our colleagues and our managers had to figure out a new way of working. Today, we are coming back into the office and although we have not recovered or acclimatised from the pandemic, even more is expected of us,” says Sarah Rice, chief people officer at Skynamo.
Added to this, she says, in South Africa we are burdened by load shedding, the struggling economy, the weak rand to dollar exchange rate, the rising cost of living and an ANC leadership battle.
“We are under a huge amount of pressure and I think people are overwhelmed at a level that we have not seen for a long time. We also do not set healthy boundaries or get the necessary work life balance.”
- Advertisement -
ALSO READ: These South African companies to start trialling 4-day work week
Global work trends in SA
At the beginning of the year, the world was in the midst of the Great Resignation which has now led to the trend of quiet quitting, but quiet quitting is a new name for an old thing: disengagement. “The challenge with the name ‘quiet quitting’ is that it places the reason and responsibility on the employee action and therefore they must sort themselves out.”
Rice says it is also not a helpful term because it validates the idea that people are essentially lazy and do not want to work, which we know is fundamentally untrue.
- Advertisement -
“It takes the responsibility away from the manager or company to create an environment where healthy engagement with work is possible. It also means businesses do not have to answer the really hard questions, such as whether hybrid, remote or in-office is working for us or what needs to change for the company to operate more effectively.”
Coming out of the pandemic, we are looking for better boundaries between work and the rest of our lives. Rice says the pandemic and working from home blurred the lines between work time, workplace and work and it hurts people.
“Putting better boundaries in place is not quiet quitting, it is just being a grown-up and looking after yourself. It is possible to hold a boundary with work and still be a contributing, engaged, productive member of your team.”
ALSO READ: Will the 4-day work week improve your wellness? We may soon find out
Quiet quitting for same reasons
Rice points out that people are quiet quitting their lives for the same reasons. “We have limited energy and need to make choices about where to expend it. Is it quitting, or just aggressively prioritising how and where to spend our time? There is a lot of pressure from the outside right now and we have to be more attentive to what we need to be okay, or we will fall into a cycle of hopelessness. Ensuring our energy is going in the right direction is critical.”
She says it is important to find a balance, because as much as we do not want hustle culture where people get burnt out, we also do not want disengagement. “The age of hustle culture is hopefully over and I hope that we do not enter a period of lethargy, but rather one of balance.”
People need to have a meaningful relationship with their work and Rice thinks employers are not respecting that they are in a relationship with every single person who works for their business and just like in a human-to-human relationship, we have expectations such as the need for care, belonging, recognition, respect and autonomy.
“Unless the business is working on the relationship, people are going to feel like there is nothing meaningful about it. The relationship happens through the managers, therefore, if you find people are quiet quitting and disengaging from the business, it is because the relationship is lacking.”
Rice says we need to help our managers figure out how to have meaningful conversations as we are yearning for connection and managers are not superhuman. They are just like us and they have the same experiences.
ALSO READ: Quiet quitting – Here’s what the law says, and how it could affect your employment
How to ensure recovery in 2023
When it comes to re-engaging employees by meeting their needs and giving them purpose, managers are the magic ingredient, rice says. Businesses need to help managers lead in a way that makes people feel cared for and empowered by starting with the basics. “After years of focusing on leadership, we can forget that much of management is making sure the work happens.”
She advises companies to start by aligning business goals, translating them into team goals with clear deliverables and measurables and creating a one-on-one structure to guide conversations around the work, career development and personal circumstance and ensure they happen.
“Once you have the basics under control, start growing the qualities of empathy, communication skills and coaching by providing external courses, an experienced mentor and if possible, a coach. These are the skills that transform a fundamentally good manager into a great one that can motivate, empower, align and grow their people.”
Rice says quiet quitting is not a trend we need to take into 2023. “This will be the year to fully engage with the work and each other. I am not expecting an easy economic year, but that does not mean it needs to be an unhappy or disconnected one. Our job, as business leaders and managers, is to create meaningful work environments that make it possible for all of us to do our best work and be fully engaged in it.”