The Forbs magazine article titled “Unhappy employees outnumber happy ones by two to one worldwide” dealt with the latest survey on international employee satisfaction being conducted by Gallup since late 1990s. It reads:

The vast majority, some 63% (of employees worldwide) are “not engaged,” meaning they are unhappy but not drastically so. In short they’re checked out. They sleepwalk through their days, putting little energy into their work. --- The highest levels of disengagement are in the Middle East and North Africa. --- I would have thought that Israel would have more happy workers but only 6% are engaged, 73% are checked out, and 22% hate their work. http://www.forbes.com/sites/susanadams/2013/10/10/unhappy-employees-outnumber-happy-ones-by-two-to-one-worldwide/

I checked up the definitions of the usage of the words, ‘checked out” in English dictionaries at hand (For instance, Collins Cobuild Advanced Learner’s English Dictionary gives four different definitions of ‘check out,” i.e., (1) pay the bill and leave, (2) find out information about sth to make sure everything is correct, (3) It’s correct and satisfactory, (4)=checkout.), but was unable to find pertinent one to the expression, “73% workers are checked out.”

What does “being checked out” mean? Are they simply checked out by time card?

3 Answers 3


Try googling "mentally checked out". As someone mentioned, it's related to checking out of a place like a hotel. Basically the way I think of it is, your mind has checked out of your head. "No one's home", in other (idiomatic) words.


To "check out" is slang for a number of things, but in this case, it means to emotionally or intellectually detach oneself from something.

A cloakroom is a room in which hats, coats, luggage, etc., may be temporarily deposited (checked); where coats may be checked.

Similarly, as if you were checking your coat, here it means "checking" your engagement with your job somewhere else ("out").

All to say, that percentage is disengaged from their job. This would be in contrast to (and in between emotionally) the % who are engaged and the % who hate their work.

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    My feeling is that "checked out" comes more from the concept of checking out of a hotel room. You had already paid your bill and finished your obligations, and thus your interest and engagement, but you hadn't left yet. "You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave" sang the Eagles, to illustrate how there is some space in between the two concepts. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 9:48
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    @Avner Shahar-Kashtan. When we say someone already checked out the hotel, doesn't it imply he /she already left hotel, not lingering around the lobby? Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 10:01
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    @YoichiOishi That's what the second half of my comment was for, to show that there's a difference between "checking out" (you've already finished your obligations, but might still be in the place) and physically leaving. Commented Dec 4, 2013 at 10:15

To check out in the context you provided means the employees are going through the motions without much thought, and certainly not with passion or "fire in their bellies."

"How's Bill coming in his job, Alice?"

"Oh, I'd say he checked out long ago, Jack. Frankly, I'm surprised he's still in the same job."

"That's too bad, Jack. He had such great hopes when he was first hired."

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