One way to get workers to go the extra mile is by encouraging the very thing so-called quiet quitters want—boundaries.
The pandemic pushed people to go remote, blurring the line between work and home life. For many, there’s still no clear transition upon leaving the virtual office—welcomed flexibility but also fuel for feeling perpetually on the clock.
So much unproductive discourse in recent months ignores this, among other things. Some have declared quiet quitters life quitters. Then came the pivot to quiet firing, which prizes passive aggressiveness over addressing the root of problems.
I’m more interested in solutions. Rather than placing blame on the long-recognizable workplace symptoms of quiet quitting—disengagement, discontentment, barely doing the bare minimum, job searching on the job—I recommend creating a pledge to prioritize balance. I’ve seen the benefits up close and personal while leading operations across my company’s Canadian market. As I’ve shifted into a new role managing teams across 49 countries, I want to take this approach global.
We’ve got some challenges ahead. For starters: How do we bring balance to professionals across more than a dozen time zones? It’s a problem worth solving.
A Harvard Business Review article examined what allows some to find passion in work while others withdraw. Quiet quitting is usually more about managers and their ability to foster meaningful relationships, the study found. One of the data points involved the notion of balance. Employees rated a manager’s ability to “balance getting results with a concern for others’ needs.” The least effective managers oversaw as many as four times more people categorized as quiet quitters than those ranked most effective.
At its core, a balance pledge can help define boundaries around ambitious goals to accomplish during the workday and spending intentional time later to recharge. In addition, it can help colleagues respect each other’s boundaries and recognize when it’s time to take a step back.
Finding balance means making time for that walk through the neighborhood park to find inspiration to tackle tomorrow’s biggest challenge. It’s about being proud of what we achieve during the workday and setting that—and our phones—aside to cheer on the winning goal at our kid’s soccer game.
- Crowdsource what balance looks like throughout your company. This information can be gathered through manager open mics and ongoing conversations among teams. Don’t be afraid to host regular all-hands calls to share direction and hear feedback as the pledge develops. Be ready to learn and grow based on responses. Think of the pledge as a work in progress.
- Put parameters in writing. Make sure the pledge is easily accessible and encourage managers to share it. If boundaries start to blur, the pledge can serve as a guidepost. Employees can continue to offer suggestions to strengthen the pledge as it evolves.
- Don’t be afraid to start small. Include suggestions that might seem obvious. A pledge can include a reminder to think twice before sending that weekend email. Or adding email signatures that let colleagues know they don’t need to respond outside of normal working hours.
- Make sure efforts start at the top. Management must think about the basics and model that behavior for their teams. Take the pledge seriously and regularly discuss what it looks like in practice. Be transparent about what’s working—and what isn’t.
- Be on the lookout for results. If you create a balance pledge, you may find it helps people prioritize. We saw unnecessary meetings falling off the calendar, leaving more time to focus on customers.
As part of our pledge in Canada, we encouraged employees to be mindful of colleagues in different time zones. We supported limiting messaging to work hours and truly disconnecting on vacations. We promoted clearing out calendars on Friday afternoons for personal development like leadership training or upskilling to learn something new. We also chose five long weekends throughout the year for our teammates to focus on their resilience and mental health.
We saw greater trust between managers and employees; workers were empowered to make decisions that led to customer success. Engagement increased, and more professionals recognized our company as a place they wanted to grow their careers.
Research published in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that “companies that care about staff well-being are at least twice as likely to delight customers, to be identified as a ‘great place to work,’ and to exceed financial targets. These companies also adapt more readily to change and innovate more effectively.”
Sounds like the right balance to me.
Xerxes Cooper, President of Kyndryl Strategic Markets