The employment landscape is facing a new challenge of quiet quitting. Here, Andrew Filev, CEO of Wrike, discusses how the â€œDark Matter of Workâ€ is contributing to employee burnout and how making changes, including reevaluating work management tools, can address quiet quitting.Â
This year, a new trend has started to take over workplaces â€” â€quiet quitting,â€ the idea that workers are tired of going above and beyond in their jobs. To address this, business leaders are looking for ways to re-engage employees and resolve feelings of burnout while still maintaining productivity.
It may be easy to get swept up in the â€œquiet quittingâ€ conversation, but consider: twenty-five years ago, software developers were in the position of office workers today. They were overworked, and business pundits were issuing reports that 80% of software projects were a failure. In response, Agile revolutionized the whole software development industry and changed how millions of developers and thousands of companies build software.
Today, remote work has exacerbated the â€œDark Matter of â€œWorkOpens a new window â€ or work complexities that stem from inefficient work management. â€œDark Matterâ€ refers to the invisible work streams that get lost or slip between the cracks, thanks to the vast amount of tools and apps teams rely on (like Google Drive, email, Slack, and others). All of this can lead to delayed or canceled projects, lack of visibility into work efforts, and overwhelmed employees who eventually may feel compelled to become a â€œquiet quitter.â€
Organizations don’t need to fully adopt Agile to combat this trend. But they should evaluate their work management processes and pinpoint what can be approved to prevent â€œquiet quittingâ€ from ever taking off. Business leaders should look to streamline workflows and create an engaging work environment where employees feel their contributions are valuable and visible.
How the â€œDark Matter of Workâ€ Contributes to Employee Burnout
The U.S. Labor Department has found that in 2022, productivity had its biggest-ever annual drop in the second quarterOpens a new window . When companies were forced to adopt remote work during the pandemic, they quickly implemented new tools to help their workforces better manage tasks and collaboration, despite not being in a shared physical space. However, doing so caused a bevy of new issues to arise.
For example, Wrike’s data found that business leaders believe they have visibility into 54% of the work taking place. While that sounds low, knowledge workers believe that number is even lower at 45%. This disconnect can intensify employee burnout. When GallupOpens a new window surveyed full-time employees, lack of communication and support from managers and lack of role clarity were some of the top causes of burnout. If this lack of visibility is not addressed, companies may see increased burnout and employee churn.
The responsibility is on business leaders to address these issues. So what can they do? Leaders need to reassess their approach to work transparency and company culture. If remote and hybrid workplaces are here to stay, this is the time to evaluate what tools and practices can shed light on the Dark Matter of Work.
Making Changes to Company Culture Can Address â€œQuiet Quittingâ€
Working from home often makes it harder for workers to set boundaries. Especially in larger organizations, employees working on global teams might feel pressured to respond to emails from teammates in different time zones. This â€œalways onlineâ€ mentality eats away at employees’ personal time and feeds into a culture of burnout.Â
Business leaders should take this as an opportunity to start rebuilding company culture around remote and hybrid work. They can encourage employees to respect their teammates’ working hours, as well as their own, and take advantage of work tools that allow teammates to schedule messages to send at a certain time or have a â€œdo not disturbâ€ mode after hours. Teams can also prioritize more conscientious meeting schedules by setting them within appropriate hours for everyone or taking advantage of tools that record calls and streamline note-taking.
Another change to consider is asynchronous work, where employees set their schedules and deliver results based on the organization’s goals and timelines without demanding that they are online for a fixed period every day. While this practice is associated with remote work, it can still be useful to learn from an asynchronous work mentality if team members adhere to traditional working hours in different time zones.Â
This work style functions well when teams embrace asynchronous messaging and projects, where urgent requests are separate from day-to-day tasks and emails. Proper work management processes and platforms allow employees to pick up where others left off, so they don’t have to be available at all hours.Â Â
It takes a considerable amount of trust and transparency to set up an asynchronous team. But the advantages are increased flexibility and reduced meeting bloat, which contribute to overall work happiness and retention.
Why We Need To Move Away From Phrases Like â€œQuiet Quittingâ€
It can be stressful to see employees leave a company, but phrases like â€œquiet quittingâ€ often put the blame on employees for experiencing burnout or job dissatisfaction. While employees move on from jobs for a wide range of reasons, it might be a sign an organization needs to change from the top down when employee churn begins to impact the business.
Business leaders should revisit the role technology and workplace tools play in giving employers more visibility into employees’ work. For example, Wrike’s data found that 61% of workers are stressed because they don’t have all the necessary information to do their job. That being said, 94% of knowledge workers say that a single source of truth for information would reduce stress in their teams.Â
Key information is typically distributed and updated across various apps and tools, leading to low visibility across teams. Given this, (48%)Opens a new window of businesses are looking to invest in tools to re-engage employees and improve team productivity before the next planning season kicks in. But few realize that knowledge workers already use 10-14 applicationsOpens a new window a day. That is 10-14 applications where information can be siloed or even lost. This can be combated by centralizing digital workplaces and creating a single source of truth for all workflows. By cutting down on time spent chasing after information, employees are freed up to focus on more impactful work.
If information is getting lost, it is possible that employees’ hard work is going under the radar as well. Business leaders should evaluate if the current level of workplace visibility provides an accurate look at how much work is being done. If someone is overworking to compensate for a work process redundancy or a recent resignation on their team, they may be on the brink of burning out. Business leaders and managers must ensure the processes in place lend themselves to employee recognition.Â
Change Starts From the Top
In the ’90s, one of the â€œrulesâ€ of the first Agile project was to â€œset a sustainable paceâ€ that achieves smaller successes more frequently. Don’t push your employees to do more than humanly possible. And the results of a proper Agile team speak for themselves.
Software developers could do more in a 40-hour work week than before. Just as importantly, they achieved a better work-life balance, stronger team camaraderie, and increased work fulfillment.
And now, today, workplace trends like the Great Resignation and â€œquiet quittingâ€ can be combated by examining the new workplace complexities that have arisen since the move to remote and hybrid work. It is clear that ignoring these issues leads to a decline in productivity and major overhead costs. Leaders must evaluate the Dark Matter of Work in their digital workplaces and create a single source of truth. They should focus on building their hybrid workplace culture and avoid putting the onus of declining productivity solely on their employees.
These changes start from the top. Take this opportunity to evaluate what tools and processes are contributing to the Dark Matter of Work and build a truly resilient workplace.