An HR Exec Explains the Small Change That Fixed Her Company’s Quiet Quitting Problem

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Quiet quitting may just be an overhyped name for a very old problem — disengagement from work — but that doesn’t mean it’s not a real problem. Recent surveys show that half of employees are “not engaged” at work another 18 percent are “actively disengaged,” which basically means people who actively try to do as little as possible at their job (aka quiet quitters). 

While burnout and disengagement are perennial problems for employers, it seems like the disruption and general exhaustion of the pandemic really have amplified these issues. What to do about that has been the subject of tons of articles and think pieces.  

But perhaps the best way for leaders to figure out how to tackle their quiet quitting problem is to hear from other companies that have implemented effective real-life solutions. On Quartz recently Amy Freeland Johnson, Chief People Officer at sales tool company Highspot, shared how her firm has been fighting back against quiet quitting. The whole piece is interesting but one particular step Highspot took struck me as both effective and easy for other companies to steal. 

How much difference can 12 days a year make?

Freeland Johnson kicks off the discussion by acknowledging that the old playbook for boosting employee engagement no longer works. “Google’s laundry service and Meta’s breakfast buffets were once the prized perks of the working world. Now, what employees want goes beyond cold-pressed green juice,” she writes. A whole lot of recent online chatter backs her up that employees are no longer seduced by these kinds of traditional perks. 

Instead of a Quinoa bar or nap pod, Highspot elected to tweak their leave policy. “We implemented a monthly company-wide, three-day weekend for all employees. Each month we asked all employees to take a designated Friday off, adding 12 extra days off to the existing unlimited PTO policy,” writes Freeland Johnson. 

This policy is a lot less costly and disruptive than a four-day workweek and creates far fewer logistical and cultural issues than problematic “unlimited vacation time” policies. But according to Freeland Johnson, despite its simplicity, it had a significant impact. 

“We immediately saw a shift in productivity, energy, and morale, which continued throughout the year,” she reports. Annual employee surveys showed a nearly a ten percent improvement in employees indicating “Highspot motivates me to go beyond what I would in a similar role elsewhere” and a five percent increase in employee engagement. 

On the more subjective side, Freeland Johnson also notes that “on Mondays, photos of family hiking trips, candle-making, and NYC foodie tours fill my feed.” Highspot employees appear to be putting their new benefit to good use. No wonder the company has decided to make so-called “Recharge Fridays” permanent. 

Give employees what they actually want 

Some might argue that simply giving employees twelve extra paid days off a year to use any day of the week they choose might have an even bigger impact (especially given many firm’s incredibly meager vacation offerings). That seems logical to me, but employees taking long blocks of vacation can pose logistical headaches at some small businesses. If you can’t swing that, Recharge Fridays seems like a solid compromise. 

Whatever exact formula you use, the lesson here seems clear: workers don’t want to be lured to work more by free lunches or other fancy benefits. Smart employees saw through those tactics long ago. Employees are saying what they want is to work less and at times and places that suit them better. Highspot’s three-day weekend policy strikes me as a doable way for more businesses to give their people exactly what they’re asking for. 

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