We find similar evidence from a July 2022 study from the highly respected National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). It found that annual productivity growth in businesses widely relying on remote work like tech and finance increased from 1.1% between 2010 and 2019 to 3.3% since the start of the pandemic. Compare that to industries relying on in-person contact, such as transportation, dining, and hospitality. They went from a productivity growth of 0.6% between 2010 and 2019 to a decrease of 2.6% since the start of the pandemic.

So what explains the drop in productivity associated with quiet quitting? According to Ben Wigert, director of research and strategy for workplace management at Gallup, forcing employees to come to the office under the threat of discipline leads to disengagement, fear, and distrust. Indeed, Gallup found that if people are required to come to the office for more time than they prefer, “employees experience significantly lower engagement, significantly lower well-being, significantly higher intent to leave [and] significantly higher levels of burnout.”

By contrast, employees feel gratitude to companies that give them more flexibility and show trust. As one such employee said, “if my company is going to come in and give me this flexibility, then I’m going to be the first to give them 100%.”

Indeed, research by Stanford University even before the pandemic found that workers who spent 4 days a week working remotely were 9% more engaged than in-office staff. Gallup finds that “the optimal engagement boost occurs when employees spend 60% to 80% of their time—or three to four days in a five-day workweek—working off-site.” The Integrated Benefits Institute found in an October 2022 survey that employees who work remotely or in a hybrid environment reported being more satisfied (20.7%) and more highly engaged (50.8%). A June 2022 Citrix survey finds that 56% of fully-remote workers feel engaged, but only 51% of in-office employees do so. The evidence is backed up by a CNBC survey from June 2022, which found that 52% of fully remote workers say they are very satisfied with their jobs, compared with 47% of workers working full-time in the office.

No wonder, then, that mandates forcing employees to come to the office result in quiet quitting. Disengaged workers aren’t productive. That’s especially the case if they’re looking for a new job, as shown by two recent surveys. The career website Zety found that 60% of respondents would quit rather than go back to an office-centric, 9-5 job. Another career website, Monster, reported that two-thirds of survey respondents would quit rather than return to the office full time. Not surprisingly, many of those who are forced to return to the office start polishing their resumes and meeting with recruiters.