First, there was the Great Resignation, then came the Great Regret. They were followed by quiet quitting which was countered with quiet firing. It seems every day, another "quiet [x]" term is trending on Tick Tock or making the morning show rounds, with business experts giving their take on why the workforce is in such turmoil. But the truth is, these quitting trends are just the latest symptom of mounting stresses and uncertainty in personal/world events, socioeconomic conditions, and broken workplace systems.
Employees have become emboldened to speak about the need to protect against burnout and mental health issues. This is the next phase of the workforce making decisions on their own terms. It is really about the employee quitting burnout and making a stand for mental health and well-being so that they do not fit their lives into work; they're fitting work into life in healthier ways.
According to Deloitte, the top 3 drivers of burnout are:
1) lack of support or recognition from leadership,
2) unrealistic expectations or result expectations,
3) consistently working long hours or on weekends.
Unsurprisingly, some of the same reasons people are giving for jumping on the quitting bandwagon.
As leaders, you have an opportunity to truly listen to what employees are saying through these trends so that you can make mindful, meaningful changes to make the workplace more human while helping your team protect their physical and mental well-being. Here are three things you can address in your offices to improve overall well-being and bring a bit of humanity into your organization.
According to Adam Grant, "There are four reasons to meet: to decide, learn, bond, and do. If it doesn't serve one of those purposes, cancel it." We've all suffered through pointless meetings, where people drone on and on about something that, in the end, could have been an email. LinkedIn says the average worker spends 18 hours weekly in meetings. That's nearly half of the work hours for a full-time employee, leaving them with only half of the time to get the job done.
In addition to taking up an enormous amount of time and energy, meetings can be a huge drain on the bottom line. According to research, companies spend nearly $25,000 yearly per employee to take meetings which amount to $2.5 million for a company with 100 workers — or over $100 million for firms with at least 5,000 workers. Imagine what your company could accomplish with fewer meetings and more time focused on tasks, sales, and customers.
While you can't completely do away with meetings altogether, there are a few things you can do to make the most out of productive, purposeful meetings.
Boundaries protect us. We let our children play in the front yard but tell them to stay away from the street. Walking trails have clearly defined paths to prevent us from getting lost. Bridges have guardrails to keep our car from tumbling down an embankment. These boundaries do not prevent our kids from playing, enjoying a walk in nature, or a drive down a curvy road but serve as protection from possibly dangerous situations.
In order to help our employees [and ourselves] protect their well-being and mental health, boundaries are not only necessary, but they are also paramount for creating a healthy, respectful work environment. The trouble is we often have difficulty setting and respecting each other's boundaries.
DH CEO, cofounder, and best-selling author Jenn Lim was joined by the founder of the Modern Elder Academy [MEA], Chip Conely, on the first episode of Jenn & Friends. Chip shared MEA's approach to boundaries. Going into 2022, they asked their employees to write down their top boundaries and share them with their direct supervisor. Next, everyone had an opportunity to express and explain their boundaries, which were then placed in a document accessible to everyone in the company. This allowed the organization to be clear and intentional in respecting everyone's boundaries.
The leadership asked teams to self-determine if they were living up to their own boundaries. If the employees feel they have, they receive a 5% bonus based on their self-regulation. Chip shared that the level of burnout has reduced. He believes this improvement is partly due to the idea that when you have boundaries, you have agency, and you have an opportunity to regenerate yourself and work within restraints.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind as you begin the boundaries conversation in your organization:
A recent Gallup poll revealed that global unhappiness is on the rise and an APA survey discovered that 3 in 5 workers are negatively impacted by work-related stress. And the truth is we are all still reeling from the events of the past two and half years, so it is imperative to create work environments that support mental health and psychological safety.
Google's Project Aristotle is a great example of how psychologically safe workplaces can positively impact performance. This project was designed to attempt to answer "What makes a team effective at Google?" They found that the highest-performing teams felt psychologically safe when they could talk about what was going well, what was not, what they were challenged by, and what they celebrated.
Psychological safety can support your team's wholeness, including their mental, emotional, physical, financial, and spiritual selves. It's up to everyone in the organization to decide and define what is most important in their long-term view of work/life integration. Leaders should actively listen and do what they can to support their employees in these areas.
We've created The Wheel of Wholeness tool that organizations can use to see what's most important in the individual lives of their employees and what areas we as leaders can support through their work/life journey. Imagine pie pieces that aren't just your employees' goals and responsibilities but also their mental, financial, physical, and spiritual states.
When we're able to rate ourselves on all these pieces, we get an accurate snapshot of our lives, recognizing what's going well and identifying what needs improvement. Continue revisiting this exercise, monthly or quarterly, to celebrate the progression and refocus on the things that need to be nurtured more.
This all boils down to a simple truth: everyone is fighting a battle that we know nothing about. We need to not only be kind but be human.