Is Remote Work Nothing But Quiet Quitting In Disguise?

One of the hot topics of the recent past has been “quiet quitting”.

This is something that equates to “doing the bare minimum” to get by without getting in trouble at work or in college. 

And that led to an interesting conversation in the Modern Worker offices about quiet quitting and whether there were circumstances where remote working could be considered quiet quitting.

What Is Quiet Quitting?

Quiet quitting isn’t resigning. All it means is that you have a job and that you don’t intend to do anything over and above what that job actually requires. 

In an office this may mean punching in at exactly 9 a.m. and out at 5 p.m. (assuming you work the kind of hours that were common in the 1950s). And where you hand in nothing but your deliverables and seek no extra responsibilities or burdens. 

Why Is Quiet Quitting A Big Deal?

We’re not entirely sure that it is a big deal but what seems to have led to the explosion of interest was a survey from the pollsters, Gallup

They concluded that nearly half of American workers have either “quietly quit” or are heading in that direction. 

Cue panicked reactions from the media, which often has very little to do but echo the desires of big business. Harvard Business Review, for example, hysterically opined that “quiet quitting is worse than the real thing”. 

And what could be worse than employees, umm… doing their jobs? As Sarah Connor for the Financial Times noted, if people turn up to work, do what’s asked of them, and go home, they’re working. What’s so bad about that?

Quiet Quitting And Remote Work

And there are going to be those that see remote work as an example of “quiet quitting”. 

That’s because many remote workers are, quite literally, engaged to do their job and not to put in a certain number of hours at the coalface and it can be tough to go “above and beyond” when there’s no-one around to see you do so.

And make no mistake, there are, as we saw in our article last week about Larry Fink, numerous cases of bosses wanting workers to stop remote working and the media onslaught of madness regarding quiet quitting has a lot to do with this. 

What We Think: Quiet Quitting Is A Measure Of Employee Engagement

Let us cast our minds back in time to the heady days of umm… 2015. This is a pre-pandemic world, where the migration of a fraction of the workforce to remote work exists but it is minimal in the extreme and accounts for a tiny fraction of the overall workforce. 

Those lovely people at Gallup were not concerned about quiet quitting then, they were worried about “employee engagement”. That is how many employees loved their jobs (and thus were likely to go “over and above”) and how many did not (and thus, were not so inclined). 

Would it shock you to learn that more than half the workforce was not engaged? Roughly the same number as are supposed to be “quiet quitting” in 2022? 

It shouldn’t. In fact, while there have been tiny increases in engagement over the years, usually matched by tiny decreases in being “actively disengaged” (that is, hating your job), the overall pattern has remained pretty static. 

And if “quiet quitting” is a measure of employee engagement then we’ve got some good news for employers – researchers at Stanford University looked into employee engagement in the remote workforce. 

They found that a remote worker was 9% more engaged than an office-bound worker, 50% less likely to actually quit their job, and most important of all, they were 13.5% more productive than their office-based colleagues too.

That 13.5% figure is a measure of “going above and beyond”. 

Yes, it appears that far from having gone home to give up, the remote workforce is a diverse community of people who get things done and do them well. 

This is also supported by survey evidence from Quantum Workplace’s survey of remote and hybrid workers. They found that both remote workers and hybrid workers self-reported that they were more engaged than their on-site coworkers. 

In fact, the problem appears to be that, if anything, remote workers are working too hard as CNBC reports that nearly 69% of remote workers are feeling burned out! 

We can see how, at first glance, people might look at remote work and see an opportunity for “quiet quitting” but we don’t think that’s how things are actually turning out.

All the current evidence suggests that far from checking out, remote workers are more engaged and productive. 

In fact, it may be that it’s time for office-based workers to go home, instead of turning up at the office, if bosses want to fix the “quiet quitting” issue.