the quiet quitting phenomenon in the UK blog header

The Quiet Quitting Phenomenon in the UK, and Strategies to Overcome it

The Quiet Quitting Phenomenon in the UK, and Strategies to Overcome it

Have you heard the latest buzz from Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce 2024 report? Brace yourselves, because it’s revealing some eye-opening stats about how UK employees are feeling at work.

According to the report, a whopping 90% of people in the workforce are either not engaged, or even worse, actively disengaged. That’s like almost everyone in your office feeling disconnected and not quite into their work. And here’s the kicker—they’re not just disengaged; many are seriously considering jumping ship. 

the quiet quitting phenomenon in the UK Gallup table

Key findings from the report:

Let’s break down some eye-opening stats from the report:

  • Employee engagement: Only 23% of employees worldwide are truly engaged in their work. That means the majority—62%—are just going through the motions, and another 15% are actively disengaged, possibly spreading negativity.
  • Life evaluation: A concerning 58% of employees are struggling in their daily lives, with only 34% reporting thriving conditions. This disparity underscores the impact of work on overall wellbeing.
  • Daily negative emotions: Stress tops the list, affecting a significant 41% of employees. Meanwhile, 22% grapple with sadness, 20% with loneliness, and 21% with anger—emotions that often stem from workplace dynamics and personal pressures.
  • Job market perception: Despite the lack of engagement, a surprising 54% of employees believe it’s a good time to find a new job, and over half are actively exploring new opportunities. This dual sentiment—disengagement from current roles coupled with optimism elsewhere—highlights a profound disconnect in workplace satisfaction.

 

Shocking stats, right? But beyond the numbers, the report delves into the deeper issues affecting employee wellbeing and engagement. It reveals that older employees generally fare better in life evaluations compared to their younger counterparts, hinting at generational differences in work experiences and expectations. So we’ll also look at what it is that Gen Z really wants in an employer.

What do we mean by “disengaged”?

disengaged employees

So, what does “disengaged” really mean in this context? It’s when employees don’t feel connected to their work or the company’s goals. They might feel overlooked, unappreciated, or just stuck in a rut without much room to grow. 

It’s not just about feeling a bit bored—it’s about feeling disconnected from something that takes up a big chunk of your life.

What is “quiet quitting”?

You may also be wondering what we mean by the term “quiet quitting”. This has become somewhat of a buzz word in HR, but if you’re yet to hear it, “Quiet quitting” is when employees do the bare minimum required for their job and nothing more. 

They show up, do their work, and leave on time, but they don’t put in any extra effort or go above and beyond their basic duties.

This doesn’t mean they are actually quitting their job; instead, they are just setting boundaries and not engaging in tasks that they believe are outside their job description or not worth the extra effort. It’s a way for employees to manage their work-life balance and avoid burnout, especially if they feel undervalued or overworked.

So, in simple terms, “quiet quitting” is about doing just enough to get by at work without overextending yourself.

Understanding the impact of lack of engagement

Now, imagine being in a workplace where most people are feeling this way. It’s not just bad for the employees themselves—it’s bad for the company too. Disengaged employees are more likely to be stressed out, burned out, and not performing at their best. They might call in sick more often or start looking around for other opportunities that promise a better fit.

For businesses, this kind of disengagement comes with a hefty price tag. It means higher turnover rates, which means spending more time and money hiring and training new people. Plus, there’s the loss of experience and knowledge that leaves with those who decide to leave.

Root causes of lack of engagement

So, why are so many UK workers feeling this way? There are a few key reasons:

lack of recognition

Lack of recognition: When hard work goes unnoticed, it can make employees feel like their efforts don’t matter.

Implementing recognition tools or schemes can help combat this one. Peer-to-peer recognition is a great way to applaud those going the extra mile, and point schemes that can be turned into vouchers for your team’s favourite shop are just some of the ways you can show appreciation.

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Limited growth opportunities: Without chances to learn new skills or move up the ladder, work can start to feel like a dead end. 

Whilst some people are content in their roles, others may feel a huge focus on their career and want to climb the ladder at some point. Understanding what training support and development your teams desire is key to creating a culture where people can grow and thrive. Start with our question bank for training and development if you’re wanting to retain your top talent and see them grow. 

work-life imbalance

Work-Life Imbalance: Balancing work and personal life is tough, and when work takes over, it can lead to burnout and dissatisfaction.

Think about adding more flexibility within your organisation. A team member has an appointment? That’s great, let them take an hour out of their day to attend rather than them having to put in a holiday. A school play? Not a problem, children are only children for a short while, let the parents amongst you head to their show without guilt of making the time back. Got people in your team with hobbies after work? Great! Let them choose their work earlier to finish earlier if your type of work allows. 

poor leadership

Poor leadership: Managers who don’t communicate well or support their teams can leave employees feeling unsupported and undervalued.

No one will feel like going the extra mile, or sometimes even the bare minimum for someone who doesn’t offer the right support. And sometimes, this isn’t intentional, the manager may be lacking training. 

HR leaders, it’s up to you to identify these gaps to understand how employees are feeling about their managers and leadership and what extra support they could use, what processes they’d like to see, and how their workday could be improved. Surveys are a great way to get a full picture of this. In turn, you’ll find employees can become more engaged and motivated in their role.

mismatched values

Mismatched values: When personal values don’t align with company values, it can create tension and make work less fulfilling.

To overcome mismatched values between personal beliefs and company culture, start with self-reflection to understand your values. Communicate openly with managers or HR to clarify expectations and explore flexibility in applying values at work. Seek support from colleagues or mentors with similar values, and evaluate long-term fit. Considering alternatives if the misalignment persists ensures you contribute to a more fulfilling work environment aligned with your aspirations.

What do gen Z really want in an employer?

What do gen z really want

We mentioned earlier that Gen Z have different expectations in the workplace to those of their older counterparts. But to understand the changing needs and meet expectations of Gen Z, it’s essential to explore what they truly want in an employer. From this Gallup study, we can see some key insights and trends emerging:

Flexibility

Gen-z values balance between in-person interaction and remote work. Whilst remote work offers flexibility, too much can also lead to loneliness. So offering a hybrid model can help with this balance. Offering flexible working schedules and location can also be a perk for the younger generations. This allows for a healthy work-life balance.

Resources and support

Can you really do your job to the best of your ability without the necessary resources and support from your managers? Probably not. Gen Z put an importance on having the adequate resources to perform their job effectively, which can also prevent stress and dissatisfaction in their role. 

Support from managers is also key to retaining your top Gen Z talent. They’re looking for empathetic managers who address employee wellbeing and fulfil human needs. They want effective managers who inspire hope and provide a clear vision of the present and future.

Meaningful work

You might find that you have people in your workforce who can come to work, do their job effectively and go home – regardless of if they’re passionate about the mission and purpose. But not Gen Z. they’re looking for purpose-driven work that’s meaningful and fulfilling. And they want to feel seen, heard and valued within their organisation. 

These younger generations are also looking for their employer to have an Employee Value Proposition that connects with them and aligns with their values. 

For tips on how to write a powerful Employee Value Proposition, check out our step-by-step blog.

Skills and development

Now we’ve already mentioned development and growth opportunities, but we’ll take the time to look at this again as this is an important one for the Gen Z population. As employers are actively seeking people with communication skills, strategy preparedness, and organisational skills, this is something Gen Z are looking to be coached and trained in. 

They’re also recognising that, if they were to grow within an organisation, they’re going to need the skills to match it. If they’re expecting their managers to have empathy, address wellbeing and help employees feel connected to the mission and purpose of the organisation, then they too are going to need to be trained in how to do this so when those promotions one day come, they’re prepared to be the best managers they can.

Employee engagement

Higher employee engagement leads to significant reductions in stress, sadness, anger, loneliness, and worry. Engagement not only boosts productivity, but also improves overall employee wellbeing. Being engaged is another factor on the Gen Z wishlist that employers need to get right. 

Need help improving your employee engagement strategy? Dive into our Ultimate Guide to Employee Engagement and gain tips to boost it within your organisation.

Overall, Gen Z employees aren’t really asking for too much. They want balanced and flexible environments that provide the necessary resources, support, a focus on wellbeing accompanied by fulfilling work, skill development and empathetic leaders. 

This approach to your workplace is exactly what will help employers attract and retain Gen Z talent in the workplace. 

What can managers do

Managers play a crucial role in reversing the trend of disengagement because they’re often the closest decision-maker and change-maker to their team. 

It’s important to note that organisations need to back their managers so they can effectively support their teams. Managers are feeling the pressure, but strong people practices are essential to their roles. When managers are engaged, employees are engaged too. The good news is that these suggestions can be easily integrated into regular practices like one-on-ones and team meetings. Instead of trying to find extra time, managers should prioritise these actions within their current routines to ensure long-term success.

Here are some steps they can take:

Build trust and connection: Managers should foster open and honest communication with their teams. Regular check-ins, surveys, one-on-one meetings, always-on listening tools, and team gatherings can create opportunities for employees to share their concerns and feel heard.

 

Recognise and appreciate: Acknowledging employees’ contributions goes a long way. Whether it’s a simple thank you, public recognition, or rewards for outstanding performance, showing appreciation boosts morale and reinforces a culture of recognition.

Support growth and development: Managers should advocate for their team members’ professional development. This includes providing opportunities for training, mentoring, and career advancement. When employees see a path for growth within the organisation, they are more likely to stay engaged and committed. Understanding whether your people have the right tools they need to succeed in their day to day can help development too.

Promote work-Life balance: Encouraging work-life balance shows employees that their wellbeing matters. Managers can lead by example, promoting flexible work schedules, hybrid work models encouraging breaks, and respecting boundaries between work and personal life.

Lead with purpose: Inspiring teams with a clear vision and aligning their work with the organisation’s goals gives employees a sense of purpose. When employees understand how their contributions impact the bigger picture, they are more motivated and engaged.

 

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“Lately, we’ve been hearing a lot from our customers about how employees and line managers are feeling really squeezed. People are being asked to do more and more, but their pay isn’t keeping up. The ongoing cost of living crisis is making things worse for both organisations and their employees. Companies are having to cut budgets, and employees feel like their increased workload isn’t being fairly compensated.

This is taking a toll on employees’ wellbeing and work-life balance. Many feel undervalued, not just in terms of pay, but also in simple acknowledgments like thank-yous. This lack of recognition is causing employees to lose confidence in their organisations and trust in their leaders.

Organisations feel like they’ve done everything they can at the top level and are now relying more on line managers to keep their teams motivated. But this added pressure is tough on line managers and can lead to burnout, making the situation even worse.

To help, we’re pointing customers towards frameworks like the Job Demands-Resources (JDR) model for wellbeing and equity theory for recognition. These models can help balance job demands with the right resources and ensure employees feel fairly recognised.

The key to keeping employees engaged is meeting both their tangible needs, like fair pay, and their intangible needs, like recognition and strong communication from leaders. By focusing on these areas, organisations can rebuild trust and improve overall engagement.” Jen Southern

Looking ahead to an engaged workforce

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As we navigate this era of high disengagement, companies have a chance to rethink how they treat their people. By investing in engagement initiatives and creating a workplace where employees feel valued and heard, businesses can turn the tide.

Gallup’s report is a wake-up call, reminding us all that engaged employees are the heart of a successful company. When people feel connected to their work and their company, everyone wins. It’s not just about reducing turnover—it’s about building a workplace where people want to be, where they can grow and thrive.

So, let’s take this opportunity to listen, learn, and make changes that matter. Together, we can create workplaces where everyone feels engaged, fulfilled, and ready to tackle whatever comes next.

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