Quiet Quitting & Workplace Trends

Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is an increasingly important and rapidly evolving facet of business and organisational performance. There is a lot of public awareness around mental health and rightly so. Every year we see the acknowledgment of World Mental Health Day and The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand annually celebrates Mental Health Awareness Week…but there is still a way to go before mental health priorities are normalised in the same way as physical health.

Don’t get me wrong, mental health and wellbeing is a hot topic right now, but do we really understand the implications of mental health challenges and the potential economic consequences?

For a long time, mental health challenges have been viewed as personal or domestic problems, we’ve been told to keep them away from the workplace and manage them in private (if not explicitly told, certainly it has been implied). How times are changing though, in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world, many of us are experiencing a confusing union between our physical and mental health, our digital and personal connectivity, our home lives and work life. These blurred demarcations and the overlapping and often competing nature of daily demands means a likely decline in overall mental health, and subsequently deterioration of physical health.

The World Health Organization and the Global Burden of Disease study estimate that almost 800,000 people die from suicide every year. That’s one person every 40 seconds. In New Zealand, The Health Promotion Agency estimates that one in five people will suffer from medium to high levels of mental distress, and this statistic is trending upward. There is a lot of public awareness around mental health challenges but for a long time these have been viewed as personal or domestic problems.

While this view is changing and there are some excellent examples of progressive organisations prioritising workplace psychological safety, there are still many businesses playing catch up. Most organisations have some workplace policies in place relating to post crisis services such as Employee Assistance Programmes (EAP), but many aren’t considering the advantage of preventative and early intervention strategies. The benefit however is clear, organisations that adopt early intervention strategies will experience far greater cultural, social and financial return on investment.

Research from the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research and Xero shows investment in prevention and early intervention programmes have an average return on investment of 5:1, and in some instances up to 12:1, with traditional EAP services and post crisis services like counselling yielding an average return of 3.6:1.

The greater ROI of prevention programmes is due to economies of scale (one to many versus one to one) and the proactive nature of the course. This reduces the overall costs for demand services like EAPs and counselling, however, utilising the full spectrum of interventions provides the greatest support for employees. The longer the delay between developing mental health problems and receiving appropriate support and treatment, the lengthier and more difficult the recovery process may be.

The fact is, we are now living in an age where many people are feeling a sense of overwhelm – social media and the rate that technology is developing, the increasing cost of living, wars, and geopolitical unrest, along with information overload…and of course, the effect that the Pandemic has had on everyone’s wellbeing! People are inundated with information from all different directions, plus the amount of work that we are actually getting through and what we have on our plates is far greater than generations before us, and that’s just the adults!

A recent study in Australia found that school age children are now bombarded with the same volume of information within one week, that adults received in an entire year at the same age. The human brain is struggling to adapt to the rate of information exchange, and the pace is on an upward curve.

So what are the outcomes of all this ‘overload’? There are a lot of new terms floating around that allude to the general mood of populations around the world. Quiet Quitting, The Great Resignation, The Great Reshuffle…all commonly used terms but what do they mean?

The Great Resignation, also known as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle, is an ongoing economic trend in which employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs en-masse. It began in early 2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and has continued to impact on employee retention and labour markets. It makes sense that as people step back to reassess and recalibrate their lives after a period of prolonged volatility, disruption and trauma, that change is inevitable to offset personal strain.

What about Quiet Quitting?

It’s not as obvious as the Great Resignation but the impact on presenteeism is enormous and impact is much harder to measure. Quiet Quitting describes an uprising against ‘hustle culture’, the quiet rebellion against ‘going above and beyond’ and a more unyielding ‘work to rule’ approach where the bare minimum is the new benchmark for commitment and productivity. Given we can no longer expect people to compartmentalise their work life and their personal life, organisations and leaders need to step up to re-establish boundaries. Pre-Covid-19 Workload and productivity expectations should be reassessed and redesigned to create a more positive work culture where work-life balance is prioritised. If this doesn’t happen, the people will speak, quietly or loudly and overall organisational performance may suffer.

In 2012, Google embarked on an initiative to determine why some teams achieved great success and why others faltered. They found that across five key performance indicators, the most important factor that underpinned all others was psychological safety, otherwise defined as a climate in which employees feel comfortable expressing and being themselves. Bringing your whole self to work requires candour and an absence of fear from negative repercussions to career, reputation, respect and earning capacity

So it stands to reason that organisations with strong people and culture strategies including; realistic job design with appropriately balanced workloads and moderation of team and individual pressure; policies and procedures that support mental wellbeing and psychological safety; ongoing training and support programmes that exceed current health and safety standards, will mitigate the impact of disengagement. Integration of mental health and wellbeing is a strategic decision that requires investment and commitment, it is not just about ROI, it’s also about VOI (value on investment) and the intangible benefits of human connection and wellbeing. Integration of mental health and wellbeing is a strategic decision that requires investment and commitment, it is not just a ‘nice to have’ component, it is the future of successful businesses and high performing teams.

Check out our Other Blogs:

happy workplace

The Future of Mentally Well Workplaces

Mental health and wellbeing is a complex personal, social and economic issue of concern for all of us. Modern society is faced with a myriad of stresses that can profoundly impact wellbeing,

dynamics success

Forge Your Own Path To Greatness

Parallels are often drawn between elite athletes and successful entrepreneurs. The playing fields may be different, but in both worlds the stakes are comparable; competition is fierce, disappointment is a given and the achievement of goals requires an immense amount of discipline and dedication.

quiet quit

Quiet Quitting & Workplace Trends

Mental health and wellbeing in the workplace is an increasingly important and rapidly evolving facet of business and organisational performance. There is a lot of public awareness around mental health and rightly so.

maori community

Collectivism and Te Ao Māori

In the rich tapestry of New Zealand’s cultural heritage, Te Ao Māori, or the Māori world, stands as a vibrant and deeply rooted expression of values that resonate with the essence of collectivism.