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Back in the old days—2021 to be exact—it was impossible to read the news without seeing references to the Great Resignation, a term describing mostly millennial and Gen Z employees who simply walked away from their jobs after more than a year of pandemic-related burnout. Job mobility has always been part of the employment landscape, but the idea of millions of people giving their two-weeks’ notice without a Plan B was unprecedented. Business leaders found themselves short-staffed and unable to fill critical positions within their organizations.

And just as the Great Resignation faded from the public lexicon, a new concept has burst onto the scene: “quiet quitting.” This trend is creating a rippling effect throughout the entire economy, and the property management industry is no exception.

What Is Quiet Quitting?

So, what exactly is quiet quitting, and what does it mean for property management? For starters, it’s a misleading term because it’s not actually about quitting. (The people who were going to quit already did so last year.) Instead, it’s about younger workers trying to enforce boundaries to create a true work-life balance by just doing what is required. Nothing more.

In an era of remote work, it’s almost impossible to separate personal time from professional time. Quiet quitting is about reclaiming that boundary. As LinkedIn recently described it, “In a nutshell, ‘quiet quitting’ is about rejecting the notion that work has to take over one's life and that employees should go above and beyond what their job descriptions entail.”

Why Quiet Quitting Matters in Property Management

Leasing veterans all have stories about burning the midnight oil early in their careers, such as showing a property to a prospect at 7 p.m. on a Friday or ducking out of a friend’s wedding to show a unit on short notice. These tales are part of the industry DNA because success is often equated to hustle and going the extra mile to get a lease signed. This is the genesis of quiet quitting. It's not that today’s younger employees don't want to work hard, it's that they don't want to sacrifice their free time for their career. Although this might gall owners and managers from the baby boomer and Gen X cohorts, it is simply part of the reality today, and businesses have the option of complaining or adapting.

Rather than simply fretting about the work ethic of younger people, forward-thinking companies need to learn to adapt to the way that people younger than 30 actually want to work. They are the largest generation since the baby boomers, and ignoring tens of millions of people simply isn’t an option if you want to be successful.

Digital Natives

It’s important to remember that this attitude is a direct result of the technology revolution. People younger than 30 are the first fully digital native generation. They grew up with Wikipedia, not Encyclopedia Britannica, and anything that older people might have gone to a library to research can easily be found in seconds on a smartphone with a Google search.

One of the byproducts of this shift to digital is an expectation of speed. Instead of thinking of younger workers as lazy, think of them as efficient. After all, this is the first generation that didn't have to wait in line for hours to sign up for college classes. They simply selected courses from their laptops from anywhere. They've been conditioned to mobile apps that automate cumbersome and time-consuming processes. So they aren't really quiet quitting anything—they live with absolute certainty that technologies exist that will enable them to get their job done between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Welcome to the Real World

People often look for apartments after work, meaning that property managers actually receive more inquiries after 5 p.m. than they do between 9 a.m. and noon. Or people who are busy during the week want to tour on Saturdays and Sundays. Being a property manager meant being available off-hours to offer tours to these prospective tenants. Thanks to the Great Resignation and quiet quitting, the pool of people willing to work unusual and unpredictable hours—not to mention being on call all the time—is rapidly decreasing.

Adapt … Not Complain

Companies may complain about the lack of a qualified applicant pool, but they should be talking about implementing technologies that eliminate the need for people to work on evenings and weekends in the first place. This may sound counterintuitive, especially because so much of what companies do takes place outside of normal working hours.

However, a number of technologies on the market today make it easy to automate time-consuming tasks. They eliminate the need to have someone available 24/7 to arrange tours, provide paperwork for leases, perform credit checks, and other activities to convert prospects into paying renters.

Working Hard or Hardly Working

Every generation seems to hold itself up as the paragon of knowing what hard work really looks like. The so-called “greatest generation” looked askance at the boomers for their seemingly lax professional ethic—after all, the boomers actually wore jeans to work on Fridays.

The reality is that people are working hard: They're just going about it in different ways. Technology has radically shifted how certain tasks need to be accomplished, and today's younger workers are tapping into that as part of their professional reality.

Companies can remain inflexible and watch their talent pool dwindle, or they can adapt. They can implement platforms that will enhance their operations and allow them to hire talented employees who see them as an ally, rather than a hindrance, when it comes to creating work-life balance.