Addressing Workplace Languishing & How to Fix It
Languishing – adjective; The dull grey cloud preventing focus and reducing motivation.
Wellbeing in the workplace is becoming a more important topic each year. Employers are recognizing how they might be able to positively influence the wellbeing of their employees, improving workplace culture and seeking ways to help them feel happier overall.
It is not uncommon to have some employees who don’t embrace these changes or don’t seem to be as easily influenced and continue to feel ‘meh’. If employees are feeling as though they are living day to day and their enthusiasm is dwindling, they may be experiencing ‘languishing’.
Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. People have described languishing as a feeling of going about their day and seeing life through a foggy windshield. Furthermore, they do not feel as though they are functioning at full capacity, their ability to focus is lowered and they slowly withdraw within their daily life. They are indifferent to indifference (Grant, 2021).
When discussing mental health, psychologists often refer to mental health as being a spectrum from flourishing to depression. Flourishing being the peak of wellbeing and depression the low valley of ill-being. Languishing has been identified as the middle ground between these ends. People in this zone may not exhibit or have symptoms of mental illness, but their wellbeing is lowered. The danger of languishing is that often people may be unaware or notice their dulling of happiness and drive or that they are seeking more solitude.
Psychologists believe those experiencing languishing are 6 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode than those who were ‘flourishing’ (Corey & Keyes, 2002). Studies have shown languishing, and depression were associated with significant psychosocial impairment in perceived emotional health, limitations of activities, absenteeism or work being cutback (Corey & Keyes, 2002). Languishing for long periods of time can increase the risk of mental illness overall.
Languishing in the Workplace
In the workplace, languishing manifests in a number of ways. Employees languishing may have the following behaviours:
- A general lack of engagement and energy
- Active participation in projects and work falls,
- Procrastination increases,
- Quality of decision-making is lowered, and
- Reduced social interactions (Christian, 2022).
It is important to note that those experiencing languishing can shift either direction on the spectrum, choosing to remove these feelings or slip into a depressive state. Thus, recognising when an employee or someone in your life is languishing is crucial.
Even if you’re not languishing, you are likely to know people who are now or in future. Understanding it better can help you help them (Grant, 2021).
Addressing These Feelings
On the spectrum of mental health, there is an additional section between thriving and languishing, called resilience (Christian, 2022). Choosing to build resilience may assist a person to remove themselves from languishing and move towards flourishing. Resilience does not mean that a person can block out or does not experience stress, emotions or suffering. Rather resilience is simply a tool that can help address these feelings and limit their effect.
Activities that can assist in building resilience is different for everyone, but may include;
- Practicing mindfulness – to understand, recognize and accept your emotions
- Compartmentalizing your cognitive load and emotions – to enable you to better identify what you are feeling to better resolve them.
- Take breaks throughout the day.
- Removing ourselves from what makes us stressed (i.e., being able to pause, to observe the experience from a neutral standpoint, and then seeking resolution) (Lebois et al, 2015)
- Cultivate compassion for others and ourselves. Research by the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley has shown compassion can increase positive emotions, creates better work relationships and increases cooperation and collaboration (Fernandez, 2016).
Advice for Employers
If you believe an employee may be languishing, a simple conversation with them on how they’re doing shows you care and can make a difference. Raising your concern with the employee and offering your support is recommended. Furthermore, adopting regular check-ins with employees can assist in monitoring wellbeing.
It is also important to recognize performance issues such as punctuality, quality of work and whether deadlines are met can be linked to lowered well-being. Approaching these discussions with compassion and care is advised.
There are many ways to support your employees who are experiencing languishing and measures to mitigate the risk. Coaching, wellbeing programs and apps can help them. Whether it be through an Employee Assistance Program or better connecting a person’s skills, talent and ability to the work they do.
Furthermore, providing your employees Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help equip them with the knowledge and tools to assist themselves. With continued support and tools, employees are more likely to find a renewed enthusiasm about their work and engagement again.
Contact Bramwell Partners Today!
If you would like tailored advice on creating an EAP for your company, please contact us on (07) 3630 5695 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to organize a free HR Support Services consultation with one of our Human Resource Consulting professionals.
Our Recommended EAP Service Provider
Bramwell Partners promotes and recommends Mary Mackenzie Counselling and Coaching as their EAP services provider. Mary is a qualified life coach and offers a confidential, safe place for personal growth and healing. She works with people in a number of different areas including grief and loss, anxiety, depression, self-esteem, end of relationships and life circumstances.
Christian, A. (2022). Staff feeling a bit ‘meh’? They might be languishing. HRM Online. Retrieved 17 January 2023, from https://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/featured/languishing-at-work/#msdynttrid=LgveSJcIFsNy0nW6WMIP5zpPALL7MszLMR5TlKyVBt8
Corey, L., & Keyes, M. (2002). The Mental Health Continuum: From Languishing to Flourishing in Life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior; 43(2): 207-222. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3090197
Fernandez, R. (2016). Grant, A. (2021). Feeling Blah During the Pandemic? It’s Called Languishing. New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2023, from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/19/well/mind/covid-mental-health-languishing.html
Lebois, L, et.al (2018). 5 Ways to Boost Your Resilience at Work. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 17 January 2023, from https://hbr.org/2016/06/627-building-resilience-ic-5-ways-to-build-your-personal-resilience-at-work