Talk of “quiet quitting” is everywhere (including in this issue of PPB – see Paige McCallister’s Management column on page 20.) On TikTok, the hashtag #quietquitting has over 100 million views, and there’s even merch now, like farewell cards for coworkers that say, “You made working here tolerable.” Quiet quitters aren’t actually leaving their jobs – yet. They’re just completely disengaged and burned out.

Before the pandemic, global engagement and subjective well-being was rising steadily. But now, it’s plateaued. Global workers are simply “living for the weekend.” A recent Gallup report on the State of the Global Workplace found that only 21% of employees are engaged at work and only 33% of employees say they are thriving in their overall well-being. Most employees would say their work is not meaningful, their lives aren’t going well or they aren’t hopeful about their future.

Since March 2020, many people have decided to leave their jobs. In the month of February 2022, at least 4.4 million Americans quit their jobs, according to Zippia. In every single month of 2021, an average of 4 million workers left their jobs. For the workers who stayed, they’ve decided to pull back – doing only what’s necessary to collect a paycheck.

The “workplace” has forever changed. In 2019, only about 6% of American employees worked mainly from home. Today, remote/hybrid work is commonplace. In 2021, a Gallup report found that 45% of all workers and 67% of white-collar workers continued to work from home at least part-time. And if they’re denied the opportunity to work their desired number of days remotely, they’ll take a pay cut (7%) or look for another job (23%), an Incentive Research Foundation survey says.

When it comes to remote work, most managers and employees worry about isolation, communication challenges and reduced idea exchange. Only five of the 424 managers who responded to an IRF survey said they have no concerns regarding remote work.

Incentive programs offer a solution to both managers and workers – not only to eliminate the disadvantages of working remotely, but to also promote a culture that brings the workforce together. Be sure to check out this issue’s guide to helping clients set up exciting incentive plans that will motivate employees to do their best work, starting on page 24.

Thomas Rector, CEO of Indiana-based distributor ScreenBroidery, says clients want something with meaning. “They have recognized the recipients are tired of receiving gifts because they feel like the giver ‘has’ to give one. Recipients want items to connect either with a personal touch or unexpectedness. Our customers’ gifts vary, depending on the gift’s purpose, but in general, brand-named products matter and clever products matter.”

Camaraderie, trust and appreciation can be clearly communicated through incentives. According to the IRF, incentive programs can change people’s thinking, behavior or decision-making. With incentives, it’s possible to encourage behaviors like collaboration and to convert quiet quitters.

“Electronics seem to garner the most attention,” says John Crisci, president of California-based distributor Global Gifting. “Chargers, Bluetooth speakers and headphones, etc, are definitely popular choices. People also love getting gifts that are customized. Something that we offer is a custom Nike shoe experience where it gives you the ability to design a pair of shoes. Again, anything brand-name is always a highly sought-after gift.”

Companies rely on incentive programs to highlight the intangible benefits of work like mentorship and peer recognition.

“The gifts matter, but why our customers are giving the gifts matter more,” Rector says. “We build features into our customers’ web stores that allow them to submit a note that our fulfillment team will hand write. We also have video upload features where we can add personal videos and messages to any product. Those personal touches from a recipient’s CEO, supervisor or colleague makes people feel important and appreciated. We then add well thought-out products to the message to rise above the expectations.”

Most U.S. businesses are already spending significantly on incentive programs. According to IRF’s marketplace study, 92% of companies with revenues of $5 million or more use at least one form of non-cash incentive program. Sales incentives account for the largest share of total non-cash incentive spending (30%), followed by employee incentives (23%), customer loyalty incentives (18%), channel/distributor incentives (14%) and corporate gifting (14%).

“We recognize that brands can also be known and have meaning even if they are not global. We will source products locally. Almost every town or area has a well-known candle shop, candy manufacturer, leather producer or recycled product manufacturer. Those small-town shops are brands that are known in a company’s town and have a story to tell,” says Rector. “Our team reaches out and works with these local makers to craft special projects for our customers. We’ve gone as far to create custom board games, branded macaroons, and handbags made from our customers old billboards.”

A great promo product demonstrates a client’s commitment and care. But the most rewarding form of recognition is always a human connection, like one-on-one appreciation from a direct manager. These incentive work perks are what a disengaged workforce is craving, and promo pros can deliver.

Happy Life

A disengaged workforce has severe consequences. Low engagement costs the global economy $7.8 billion annually, according to Gallup. When employees are thriving and engaged, they experience significantly less stress, burnout and health problems. Sadly, the world’s employees are feeling even more stressed than they did in 2020 (the previous all-time high).

U.S. nonfarm worker productivity in the second quarter has fallen 2.5% since the same period last year, the steepest annual drop since 1948, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Trends like “quiet quitting” are employees’ response to burnout and stress. Workers need help setting new work boundaries and managing a work-life balance. Incentive programs that promote employee health, from aromatherapy to exercise equipment, will be memorable.

With a refined fit and ultramodern materials, the Bose Frame sunglasses are sure to stand out. The exclusive Bose Open Ear Audio technologies produce sound unexpected from sunglasses. It’s a jaw-dropping experience that leaves recipients free to engage with the world around, all while discreetly listening to music. The battery life lasts up to five-and-a-half hours. There’s an advanced mic system for crystal-clear calls and Bluetooth control for music.
Beacon Promotions / PPAI 113702, S10 /

This Swiss-made Maverick Small will compliment any recipient. It has a stainless-steel case and scratch-resistant sapphire crystal. There’s a screw-in case back and a unidirectional rotating bezel with count-up scale. It’s water resistant to 100 meters.
Victorinox Swiss Army / PPAI 113873, S8 /

A sleek central charging hub, the three-in-one wireless charging stand lets recipients charge each one of their main devices easily and conveniently. With a dedicated spot for every device, you can take the guesswork out of wireless charging. Just place your device, and charging begins on contact. The 15W charging speed means any smartphone will charge fast. It’s the perfect way to charge all devices at one time.
National Vendor Promotions / PPAI 572142, S5 /

The small-scale Petite Tabletop Fire offers warmth, looks great in any outdoor space and creates a retreat in any backyard. Recipients can watch the flame dance behind the windproof glass with your client’s frosted logo design glowing through the reflection. This product is easy to use; simply add bioethanol fuel (not included) or citronella and light the wick. When full, the fire pit will burn for two to three hours, and won’t give off any smoke, soot or ash.
Gemline / PPAI 113948, S11 /

Keep your hands free and your drinks cold with the Eola Bucket Cooler Bag. Designed with maximum portability in mind, this sporty bucket cooler is great for toting to a workout, practice or hike and keeps things cool while you work hard. It has padded adjustable backpack straps, and it holds 12 cans or eight cans and two wine bottles.
Incentive Concepts / PPAI 212912, S10 /

Big enough for a whole day on the river or trails, the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth With Flex Cap is made with professional-grade stainless steel, powder coating and a wider opening for faster fill. Cold stays ice cold for 24 hours, and hot stays wickedly hot for 12 hours. This 32-ounce flask will be a favorite.
PCNA / PPAI 113079, S15 /

Recognize hard work with this Christian Lacroix Lorem Watch. Available in black or rose gold, this watch is a stunning choice that recipients will want to wear. With a black silicone band and a monochrome face and dial, this watch provides a clean, sleek look and feel.
St Regis Group / PPAI 230188, S6 /

This sow easy planter kit includes four medium terracotta pots and saucers, four different types of seeds (choose from basil, parsley, coriander, dill, chives and peppermint) and just the right amount of gravel and compost soil for planting up the four pots. Most “grow your own” kits come with small seedling containers, but within three or four weeks, you need to replant those to actual pots, which you need to buy separately. This kit already has four high-quality terracotta pots.
Yorkn / PPAI 599060, S1 /

With its two-ply construction, this throw blanket feels remarkably like lambswool on one side and mink on the other. At 60-by-70 inches, it conjures up memories of old movies on cold winter nights, long conversations and notions of well-being. Recipients can get cozy with your client’s brand.
Towel Specialties / PPAI 113150, S7/

Valdez is an associate editor at PPAI.