Disengaged, disconnected, and disenchanted — UK employees are dialling onto calls, but are they really dialling into company culture? 90% of UK workers are unenthused about their job leading to the subtle but growing trend of ‘quiet quitting’.

This shows employees disengaging from their work and disconnecting from their employer psychologically, often without overtly expressing their dissatisfaction or intentions to leave — and it is having a drastic impact on businesses.

LSE research estimates that this phenomenon has led to an estimated 55.1 million discretionary hours lost in the UK labour market each year since 2020 – with 48% accounted for by millennials. Workers are slowly, but surely, reassessing their priorities and work has started to slip down the list.

So, why are people quiet quitting in their droves? And what can businesses do to stop this trend? Nipping employee concerns in the bud will prove vital for leaders who want to ensure staff are happy and healthy in their careers.

The truth behind quiet quitting

When half of companies do not have enough personnel to handle all their necessary tasks, remaining employees are left stressed, burnt out, and disconnecting from work to cope with the strain and protect their mental health. Lower productivity is bad for business — especially in an economic downturn where every penny counts.

Gen Z and millennial employees are driving the quiet quitting epidemic. These generations often have higher expectations of what they want from their workplace and their employers. No longer simply cogs in the corporate machine, these new beliefs are not necessarily a bad thing and manifest themselves in many positive ways. These generations know the value of maintaining a work-life balance and are more well-rounded individuals capable of detaching themselves from work.

However, despite this phenomenon being led by younger employees, it is not just Gen Z and millennials feeling this way. Older workers, particularly working parents and carers can also experience this disconnection. Although it may not be their intention to put in the ‘bare minimum’, parental responsibilities and other personal factors can lead to unintentionally quiet quitting and life simply gets in the way of work.

How to tackle quiet quitting

Companies need to meet employee demands head-on. A focus on improving channels of communication between HR and business leaders is vital. The role of the Chief People Officer has never been more important, not just in managing and taking care of its people and how the company will survive the economic downturn, but also in making sure employees remain connected to company goals and values.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to fixing employee engagement, but tracking how employees feel with internal barometers can prove hugely informative. For this, organisations can conduct pulse surveys, or leverage digital tools with advanced data analytics to monitor satisfaction, allowing leaders to detect early signs of disengagement. Proactive HR strategies can be created from this, emphasising continuous feedback, career development, and wellbeing initiatives to prevent quiet quitting.

Employees are individuals, all with different learning styles and needs. This is why HR teams have a vital role in implementing personalised processes that focus on 1-1 coaching programmes, providing employees with human interaction and the support they truly need and want. Although recent years may have delivered greater demand for employee self-service and automated processes, employees still crave genuine human interaction across many parts of their working experience. No matter their sophistication, some approaches just can’t be automated. When businesses listen to their employees and provide the services, benefits, and training that they desire, they can tackle quiet quitting for good.

The time to listen (and act) is now

Once businesses have gathered insights on what employees want, it’s time for businesses to act. For instance, half (47%) of employees choose a company based on working times, working hours and a flexible work schedule. By knowing your employees’ preferences for working style and acting on this accordingly, leaders can support staff where they need it most. Start by fostering open, transparent, and empathetic work cultures where employees feel valued and heard, giving them the space to share their needs. With this approach, companies can ensure longer-term career growth and commitment.

People also want flexibility, especially when it comes to functions such as booking leave. Patterns are emerging around taking last-minute leave, rather than planning it months in advance, with one in three employees (32%) requesting leave on the day itself, and more than half (55%) within a week of taking it. However, employers must be careful that this leave is not being taken last minute due to stress or burnout.

To reduce stresses and concerns around work, there needs to be an open line of dialogue, where HR prioritises mental health support, as well as the delivery of solid wellbeing benefits packages alongside fair salary. As the challenges of the cost-of-living crisis and its mental health impacts continue to impact individuals, HR teams need to scrutinise benefits packages more closely in the coming months and use employee insights to drive decisions. Making benefits packages more customisable and empowering employees to tailor benefits to suit their individual circumstances and preferences will be key.

Listen and respond to minimise quiet quitting

In this evolving landscape, HR’s role in re-evaluating and adapting benefits packages will be crucial in supporting employee wellbeing, retention, and productivity. When employees are motivated to do good work and feel like they are heard and provided for, then further growth and development of the whole business are back on the cards.

By forming these deeper relationships with employees and remaining flexible to their needs, they are more likely to stick with your company for the long haul. This is important not only in reducing turnover but also in winning the commitment and trust of younger employees who are switching jobs more than ever. There may not be a ‘one size fits all’ solution to reducing quiet quitting. However, when leaders truly listen to their employees and reconsider how their company cares for its people on an individual level they can make the crucial first step to fixing engagement issues.

Rachel Clough, SD Worx
UK Country Lead at SD Worx | + posts

Rachel Clough is the UK Country Lead for SD Worx, where she is responsible for driving the strategic direction and growth of the business. Having worked in the HR and payroll sector for over 15 years, Rachel is a seasoned expert when it comes to implementing, managing and innovating HR operations.

Rachel is a strong advocate for employee wellbeing and equality and diversity in business. She believes that by prioritising employee wellbeing and creating a culture of support and inclusivity, organisations can drive innovation, boost productivity, and achieve long-term success.