New advice from global employee wellbeing company, Tictrac, reveals what employers can do to support staff who find themselves in a state of languishing at work.

The occurrence of languishing among employees is rising with a New York Times article describing the state as ‘the neglected middle child of mental health… the void between depression and flourishing’.

Studies show that rising levels of languishing can be detrimental to staff health as languishing individuals are most at risk of anxiety disorders and major depression. Meanwhile, the impacts on engagement and productivity levels can be detrimental to organisations.

Martin Blinder, Founder and CEO of Tictrac, stated:

“Languishing is an interesting concept – for those who experience it, they’re not feeling their best but they’re not feeling like they are at rock bottom either. Some days employees can feel restless and agitated and others they’re okay. The risk is that employees may not feel themselves slipping into something worse, but they are at higher risk of suffering from poor mental health as a result.

“The problem has worsened as furloughed employees may feel unmotivated and unvalued, yet working employees may be going through the motions to get through increased workloads.

“Employers who can spot languishing employees and support them will reduce the chance of mental health deteriorating and engagement and productivity levels slipping.”

To aid employers, Tictrac suggests 6 ways that employers can support employees who are languishing:

1. Create long-term strategies

Due to an increased focus on wellbeing during the pandemic, many companies are already trying to combat an ‘always on’ culture in order to decrease the risk of burnout. Introducing meeting-free days and stricter working hours while ensuring employees are taking holiday allowance are a few ways that organisations are trying to amend the issue.

However, the shift from a languishing to a struggling employee is too subtle to be amended by tick-box health exercises. Long-term wellbeing strategies are needed to address the issues at hand

2. Break up the current routine

Long-term strategies can be implemented, for example, but breaking up the everyday routines of employees is important too. Current routines include hours of video calls and few chances for social interaction. Meanwhile furloughed employees may feel disengaged from the workplace and disconnected from the normal work routine.

It’s not uncommon for employees to remember time that allowed them to think, innovate and reflect, away from scheduled meetings and constant screen time. Promoting regular breaks away from a desk or encouraging pretend commutes around the working day break up these technology-intense periods.

3. Cater for employees working at home and on-site

While creating work-from-home strategies that support languishing employees is currently key, as workers return to the office, employers must be prepared to address the issue in a hybrid working environment.

Think about what is accessible and beneficial for all employees. For example, while free gym memberships may no longer be a viable option for everyone, encouraging healthy habits can still be done by offering the option of online classes and holding them in a space within the office that is convenient for all. Options like these can be used by both office and home employees while bringing them together with a shared connection

4. Focus on social wellbeing

Creating a shared connection between employees is vital. Supporting social wellness is essential to ensure languishing employees do not disconnect from those around them and continue to nurture their social health.

Organisations should reflect on past attempts to nurture this in employees. While virtual drinks and Zoom quizzes were adequate initial social settings for employees adjusting during the beginning of the pandemic, many no longer want to spend more time at a computer after working hours. Connecting them in other ways, through team challenges, instant messaging tools and CSR or charity initiatives can be engaging, long-term ways for employees to find shared connection again.

5. Develop easy access to support

As languishing employees may not realise the risks of their current situation, support must be accessible and encouraged for all employees – no matter the state of their mental health. Truly accessible support caters for the needs of all employees but should also be easy to use.

If organisations make use of several systems and apps for benefits, rewards, holidays and surveys, ensuring they are integrated well is essential for employee accessibility. This can be achieved by utilising the technical capability of one platform and its API or by linking and signposting from one to another

6. Ensure proactive prevention

Support for employees at risk of languishing must also come in a preventative form to avoid the subtle but detrimental shift to their wellbeing, productivity and engagement. There are lots of tools that can be used here – many of which some organisations already make use of: employee engagement surveys or EAPs and the data analytics they provide.

These can be used to understand and identify where employees start to become disengaged, where they may be struggling and how approaches should be adjusted in the future.