We’re just over halfway through 2023! A good time, perhaps, to reflect on the year so far.
And what we’ve noticed, over these past 6 months, are a few new expressions generating a lot of conversation, knowing recognition, and, in some cases, heated debate in the world of wellbeing.
So, we’re going to take a look at these buzzwords and trending conversations. Hopefully, cutting through some of the noise, decoding what’s really being said, and contributing our perspective.
So, first off, here’s why we take issue with the term ‘quiet quitting.’
Quiet quitting is when an employee puts in the minimum amount of effort required to keep their job; doing only what they’re contracted to do and no more.
This might look like leaving work on time every day, refusing to take on assignments outside of their job description, and rarely participating in team meetings.
And although employee disengagement is a concerning issue, this expression rubs us the wrong way because it implies some sneakiness or laziness on behalf of the employee. When, in our experience, disengaged employees are often a symptom of something wrong in the workplace – especially where this is a trend, rather than the odd individual.
And so, a more helpful conversation, for both employee and employer, might involve figuring out the reasons for worker disengagement (and making positive changes when identified). Some common, recent reasons we’ve encountered are lethargy from overwork, lethargy from external stressors (such as the cost-of-living crisis), frustration from a lack of progression/challenge in the workplace, frustrations around working from home/from the office when one is not suited to do so, difficult relationships with management, etc.
This phenomenon might also have something to do with modern expectations of workers.
Quiet quitting seems to suggest that regularly going above and beyond has become the baseline (in terms of an employer’s expectations of their employee) rather than an occasional requirement. And it’s true that pre-pandemic, in more economically stable times, overwork (or ‘hustle culture’) was more or less normalised, if not seen as aspirational.
Post-pandemic, however, swathes of people have reassessed their values and moved work lower down their priority list. That’s not to say they are disengaged or unenthusiastic about work, they are just less willing to give as much of themselves to it. And so, could quiet quitting just be workers developing healthier work/life boundaries? Is it not a sensible response to the rising rates of burnout?
What started off as an alternative work arrangement during Covid-19, has transformed the way we conduct our professional lives. And since then, the option of working from home has gained and sustained substantial popularity, as well as substantial criticism.
For the most part, employees report benefiting from the option to WFH. It facilitates better work/life balance, allowing for more flexibility in managing household/caring responsibilities, is more inclusive of those with disabilities, and empowers staff to work withthe peaks and troughs of their energy - rather than adhering to a one-size-fits-all, 9-5 model that might not get the best out of workers.
Productivity is boosted too, by eliminating commuting time (and the stress associated with it) and workplace distractions, i.e. when WFH, employees can personalise their environment/working structure to better facilitate concentration and efficiency.
WFH can also result in significant cost savings for both employees and employer. For the employee, reducing spend on workwear, lunches, coffees, and their commute, can contribute to a better sense of financial wellbeing - a worthy concern during present times. And for the employer, saving on office space and the related operational costs can have a very positive effect on the company coffers too!
On the flip side of this coin however, it can be difficult for some to establish those healthy work/life boundaries whilst WFH. The absence of physical separation between the two realms can make it challenging to switch off from work and unwind, resulting in burnout as time goes on.
Or, on the third side of this imaginary coin, some might use working from home as an excuse to ‘slack’. Though we don’t endorse this opinion ourselves, plenty of old-school employers have voiced concerns about this.
Remote also work relies heavily on technology that may introduce communication barriers and misinterpretations, affecting collaboration and our sense of community. This will likely affect our youngest employees (those at the beginning of their careers) and our oldest employees (those who are least likely to be tech-savvy) the most, two groups of people we certainly do not want to isolate.
Our thoughts: there are plenty of valid pros and cons to WFH, but what it really comes down to is the individual. Some people work best from home and others in the office.
Therefore, having the option to WFT available (where there’s the infrastructure in place to support this) can only be a positive thing, right?
Have you heard of ‘bare minimum Mondays’?
According to the internet, it's all about avoiding any complex or stress-inducing work on a Monday and instead, opting for work that requires less brain power.
Having a more relaxed day of the week isn’t something new… but, historically, this has been a Friday. Think of certain businesses offering Friday ‘summer hours’ in August, people generally work from home on Fridays (where there’s the option/company culture) and it being common practice to avoid scheduling meetings on Friday afternoons. So, with the precedent in place, is BMM that radical of a concept?
When leadership endorses a policy like ‘bare minimum Mondays’, they give their workforce psychological permission to ease into the week/to use the flexibility available to them. This can help employees achieve greater work/life balance and acknowledges workers with caring responsibilities, who are likely to come into the working week already drained from the weekend. It gives these individuals the chance to catch up with themselves, going on to be more productive during the rest of the week.
BMM might also be a cure for the Sunday Blues - feelings of dread triggered by thoughts of work the following day. This is something that 66% of the UK workforce suffer from, and so taking the pressure off the first day of the working week could significantly improve the wellbeing of the workforce and, with this, their overall attitude toward their employer.
On the other hand, does allotting a set day for ‘doing the bare minimum’ put pressure on the rest of the working week?
Productivity could be a concern when adopting bare minimum Mondays. ‘Bare minimum’ can easily be interpreted as… erm… doing nothing by those looking to take advantage of the policy. It could be suggested that employers are voluntarily losing out on a day’s worth of work. Though studies show that making time for rest during the working week actually improves productivity.
At Luminate, we believe flexibility creates a happier, healthier, and ultimately more productive workforce. And although we have nothing against BMMs (it seems like a thoroughly positive initiative for employee wellbeing), we don’t see the need to allot a day for more relaxed work… that is, when true flexibility exists and employees feel confident in running their schedules in a way that most efficiently supports their work and their wellbeing.