Languish: What It Is, and How to Help Employees Experiencing It

The feeling of languishing is on the rise, thanks to COVID-19. Here’s the antidote for it.

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If you’re noticing a dip in your employees’ ability to focus and find motivation, they may be feeling languish

According to Organizational Psychologist Adam Grant, languishing is “a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield.” In his New York Times piece titled “Feeling Blah During the Pandemic? It’s Called Languishing,” Grant explains that this will likely be the dominant emotion of 2021 as the pandemic continues.

If you’re managing a team or running a small business, it’s possible that your employees at this time may be experiencing languish too. This could mean that they are not functioning at their full capacity and their ability to focus and find motivation may be dulled.

In the above mentioned article, Grant explains that the antidote to languishing is to get into a state of flow, where people can experience a meaningful challenge and get lost in whatever it is they are doing. Let’s discuss how you can help your team from languishing and get them into their flow state.

Name the feeling: languish

One of the quickest ways to reduce the negative charge of an emotion is to name it as it bubbles up. This could sound as simple as responding “I’m feeling a lot of languish today” when someone asks you how you’re doing.  

By giving a name to the emotion of languish, people understand that what they are going through is normal and should not be internalized.

By giving a name to the emotion of languish, people understand that what they are going through is normal and should not be internalized. They will learn to attribute the feeling to the external circumstances experienced through this pandemic.

If your team has not yet read Grant’s article, share it through Slack or email, and let them know you are open to discussing the topic. You could also hold a team meeting and discuss ideas for how people are getting through their own sense of languish, sharing tips and best practices to help them get through it.

Create time for uninterrupted work

Grant suggests that leaving time for uninterrupted work can help people get back into their sense of “flow.” You can help by reducing the amount of meetings people need to attend, as this can also cause interruption to focus. Encourage your team to block out an entire day on their calendar to do deep work and decline meetings. Or, have them block out the time on their calendars where they know they are the most productive as a “no meeting” time.

It’s also helpful to do work that requires your full attention. For example, leading a workshop for your team or attending a webinar that requires participation can be a good way to create focus.

Set small and achievable goals

Having a set of small goals to accomplish each day can help your team feel like they are making progress. Small goals can be work tasks that may not be very hard or important, but will have impact nonetheless. For example, you can update your team drive, or do a content review of some material. Though not hard, it can be an easy goal for someone to pick up and feel accomplished when complete.

You can also encourage your team to set personal goals like “meditate for 10 minutes each day” or “ go for a 15 minute walk on your lunch.” Encourage them to carve out time in their calendar each day to work on something that excites them and positively impacts their wellbeing.

Promote the importance of time off

If your company is in a position to allow personal days and time off, encourage your team to take mental health days. Allowing people to recharge will help them feel better, and come back more energized. Lead by example and take time off as well so your team knows it’s safe to follow suit.

Allowing people to recharge will help them feel better, and come back more energized. Lead by example and take time off as well so your team knows it’s safe to follow suit.

Encourage strong boundaries with your employees by logging off after work and letting them do the same.

According to Grant’s article, extended amounts of languish can be the precursor for future depression and anxiety. Whether you’re just returning to the office, still working from home, or have been on the frontline throughout the pandemic, the feeling of languish is real and should not be ignored. What are you doing to help your team fight through languish? Let us know!

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