There is little denying that the workforce shortage facing countless industries today is one wrought not only by the aftershocks of the pandemic, nor by the spectre of an international recession or the rising cost of living.
In fact, it is a fusion of all these factors and more – and beneath it all bubbles a sense of personal pride and philosophical consideration that, put simply, is making thousands of people worldwide reconsider the very meaning of their working lives overall.
While admirable from a humanistic point of view, these factors have had a straining effect on the logistics and supply chain industries – which themselves are already under tremendous strain, and have been since the beginning of the 2020s.
What is the phenomenon of Quiet Quitting – and how is it affecting not only logistics, but wider current affairs? Furthermore, how can the effective deployment of automation and artificial intelligence circumvent the challenges presented by Quiet Quitting, while still ensuring that employees feel valued in their professional lives?
By now, everyone is familiar with the term of the Great Resignation – a widespread social phenomenon in which individuals are removing themselves from proactive career lives for reasons as varied as personal fulfilment, or cynicism against capitalism as a whole.
The term was first coined by organisational psychologist Anthony Klotz in 2021, and he has gone on since to outline the ways in which both the Great Resignation and the Covid-19 pandemic have introduced the likes of flexible schedules and mainstream remote and teleworking, through the digitisation of project management, to the working world of today.
Of course, this is a largely white collar phenomenon, and more labour intensive industries such as logistics and the supply chain are more affected by any kind of workforce shortage than others.
Yet the dream of the Great Resignation has brushed up against the economic realities of our current age. Financially supporting such a lifestyle, especially with the global rising cost of living, has proven difficult enough that many proponents of the cause have reversed back into the world of work.
Beyond this, many individuals who believed in the principles empowering the Great Resignation were never financially comfortable enough to have participated in it in any meaningful way to begin with.
Therefore, the rise in media attention towards Quiet Quitting is being more keenly observed today. The philosophies empowering such a movement are largely similar to those of the Great Resignation – dissatisfaction with wages and management, a sense of displeasure with the capitalist ways in which the rich only seem to get richer, and the sense of futility from working in a job where one’s efforts are not rewarded.
In practice, Quiet Quitting works in a highly similar fashion to the likes of many Asian countries’ Lie Flat social movements – themselves having since evolved into even more severe ‘Let It Rot’ mentalities. It is about doing the bare minimum at work, so as to not attract negative attention or disciplinary action, while investing oneself minimally in social ties with colleagues, the wellbeing of one’s company, and so forth.
It is disengagement from the workplace and its strenuous demands, yet enacted in a way that does not contribute to the workforce shortage – but worryingly, neither to productivity, in a time in which the world needs it more than ever.
By its nature, Quiet Quitting is difficult for even the most experienced and capable leaders to detect in an organisation of any size. That is often because Quiet Quitting is designed, far more than other Great Resignation movements, to game the system, leaving principles like optimisation and efficiency at the door as soon as one enters the workplace for their shift.
Employees will fulfil their duties and meet deadlines, yet do little beyond that in pursuit of the optimisation of their time or productivity. Everything hums along from one workday to the next in an emotionless and almost robotic fashion – perhaps ironic, considering how much digitisation and automation can often help against these incentives.
Nevertheless, the harm that Quiet Quitting can do to any workforce is abundantly clear. Yet it is seldom initiated by employees as an act of hostility or rebellion. As numerous interviewees throughout Europe attest, Quiet Quitting often arises because their working environments do not honour the boundaries they try to set in even-handed discourse and dialogue.
It is a complex problem, yet one reality is clear – in demanding sectors such as logistics and the supply chain, Quiet Quitting is inherently harmful to productivity – even at such times when its heart is in the right place.
As we stare down an oncoming era in which the EU and European Commission are rewriting the rules to avert a deepening supply chain crisis, ours is not an industry in which a greater workforce shortage, or any measure of Quiet Quitting, is a welcome notion.
The workforce shortage in logistics and the supply chain is keenly felt all over the world. However, the urgency with which goods and raw materials are required to move across borders and throughout the planet – by consumers, by industry and by manufacturing and agriculture – is unapologetic enough that taking the time to negotiate the terms by which those involved in Quiet Quitting might better optimise their workdays again is not really a dialogue open to anyone.
This can prove significantly dangerous to the supply chain in practice. For example, with human error predominantly to blame for collisions with infrastructure during European inland shipping, how dedicated to the task at hand is a worker in logistics likely to be if they are engaged in Quiet Quitting on the job – and how many similar instances of supply chain disruption are likely to ensue due to such a mentality?
Introductions of greater means of digitisation via the cloud and artificial intelligence are making great strides in correcting many of the shortfalls presented by the challenges that Quiet Quitting in the workplace sets before us all.
The truth is that no amount of engagement with the Great Resignation or Quiet Quitting will overcome the fact that the wheels of economics need to keep turning – not to make the rich richer at our planet’s expense, as so many of the proponents of such movements perhaps rightfully opine, but because the supply chain is the necessary backbone of our entire global civilisation.
Indeed, the rising cost of living and ongoing armed conflicts between Russia and The Ukraine demonstrate how fragile what we all have truly can be – just as we have finished realising the same from an unprecedented international health crisis.
As such, while reconciliation between workers and their employers is stealing the spotlight time and again against the backdrop of the global workforce shortage, the reality is that immediate to long term advantages can be gained by better embracing digitisation and automation in supply chain and logistics operations.
The supply chain is an uncompromising interplay of dynamics, yet the workforce shortage of today is partly inspired by individuals’ lack of engagement with the rigours inherent to working in the logistics industry.
While Quiet Quitting isn’t going anywhere, that doesn’t mean the supply chain cannot either. Indeed, many of the answers to overcoming the drudgery that some feel in logistics work can come from the effective optimisation and automation of the necessary busywork and repetitive tasks that form much of how the supply chain operates.
Quiet Quitting often arises because people do not feel engaged in their workplaces. Even a job as necessary as clearing customs for complicated supply chain movements can fall into a more mundane and rote process, with which even the most diligent worker will eventually fail to feel engaged. Again, particularly where the more relaxed approach to the details is concerned in Quiet Quitting, this is an area in which delays and human error can once again rear their head.
Conversely, the optimisation of these more repetitive yet hugely necessary logistics tasks via automation – and the ability to better see mistakes and challenges coming, thanks to the capabilities afforded business by the cloud and artificial intelligence – means that the ongoing digitisation of logistics and supply chain operations is a solid step forward in overcoming any harm brought on by Quiet Quitting, the Great Resignation or the workforce shortage facing our industries at large.
Quiet Quitting is a highly complicated socioeconomic issue, with a number of contributing factors further compounding its complexity. Yet, speaking frankly, if some workers want it easy and it means they’re more engaged, then why not give it to them? The optimization of tasks and processes offered by the digitisation strategies of Holocene could well prove your secret weapon against the Quiet Quitting phenomenon.
No confrontations or rhetoric to argue between employers and employees – just a smoother workflow, backed by the optimisation of pinpoint accuracy made possible by artificial intelligence and the cloud.