“Quiet returns” are a sign of an engaged culture. When disengaged employees show up at work they undermine possibility and business potential. These are the people who quit quietly and stay, secretly protesting burnout, stress, or other abuses of work-life balance. And it’s also those who are compelled to work onsite because you say they must. Don’t ignore the desires and needs of these frustrated workers. Give them a better experience.
In one way or another, we’re all returning to new forms of work. Change is a way of life. It’s up to leaders to develop environments newly focused on wellbeing. When people feel valued and cared for, they’ll quietly return to their jobs, fully engaged in creating success. Easily said, but it takes deep thought and well-crafted strategies to meet today’s worker expectations. “The relationship between wellbeing and engagement is vital because how people experience work influences their lives outside work, and overall wellbeing influences life at work.” (2022 “Gallup Global Workplace Report) This broad view of work and life has always been true, but somehow businesses are just waking up to it.
People today demand to be seen as the whole person they are and encouraged to bring their full, authentic selves to work. This means you, as a leader, must hone your soft skills and find new flexibility. You’ll need to trust employees to be productive from wherever they want to work and be willing to rehire people you told would never be reconsidered. Lack of trust and inflexibility are what lead to disengagement and its consequences. Practicing them helps win top talent.
Ensure that people of all levels look forward to a quiet return to work by minimizing the stressors and creating a humane environment that welcomes them in. Start with two priorities: allowing remote/hybrid work options and reconsidering your hiring practices.
Allow Remote/Hybrid Options
“Working from home is a future-looking technology,” Stanford economics professor and researcher Nicholas Bloom stated in a TED Talk five years ago. He was right! Bloom’s recent two-year study of 500 employees found that remote workers were 50 percent less likely to leave the company and achieved a 24 percent productivity boost as well.
We’re still analyzing the short- versus long-term productivity statistics filtering in on remote and hybrid work and debating the pros and cons depending on business models. However, LinkedIn cites research showing that 97 percent of remote workers would like to continue working remotely, at least some of the time, for the rest of their careers. And Ladders research projects that 25 percent of professionals in North America will, indeed, be working remotely by the end of 2022.
All of this, coupled with the fact that Americans working from home save an estimated 60 million commuting hours a day, means remote is here to stay—and I don’t believe employers can easily take back those hours. Employees spend the new-found time sleeping an extra hour, making time for family, or on activities like working out, says new research by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. This means happier, healthier workers, and a benefit to companies that they may not yet recognize.
Given that more flexibility is a top priority for workers today, it’s hard to understand why more employers aren’t creatively looking at remote options to see how they can make them fit. If work models prevent them, companies can advance the wellbeing of their people by offering other flexible options, like four-day weeks and shared jobs. When you dare to care creativity follows.
Who Are You Not Hiring?
Traditionally, if an employee quit for personal reasons of almost any kind, they would never be considered for rehire. They were labeled unreliable or disloyal. Reality has shown that these rehired “boomerangs” often become your most valuable employees. They know your culture and are a fit so they need less training. And even if they worked for a competitor for a while, they bring new skills and innovation back with them.
Mothers and other caretakers:
With the understanding that it’s not just women who are caretakers, the 2022 Gallup Global Workplace Report states specifically that women in the U.S. and Canada were among the most stressed employees globally. As we return to various forms of work, employers would do well to find solutions to the things that are keeping millions of women at home. Eliminate stressors like the cost and limited availability of childcare with onsite daycare, at-home services, or more flexible time-off policies. Provide pleasant, private rooms to nurse. Ask women and others with family responsibilities outside work what you can do, specifically, to increase their wellbeing.
Don’t let bias influence your perceptions of older employees. They offer knowledge and experience that can only be gained over time and a different perspective that adds diversity to your decisions. They can be excellent mentors.
Workers without the right skills:
Don’t overlook upskilling current employees who have the ability and interest to move into a new role. When evaluating candidates, hire for cultural fit first, knowing that for most roles you can teach the necessary skills, but you cannot change the attitude.
Together, wellbeing and engagement are a powerful force. When you lead with them it follows that your people will be highly productive, and your business will thrive. No more quiet quitting, only quiet returns to a workplace where people choose to stay.