Why You Need To Address Languishing To Retain Your Talent

Languishing is the  mood for 2021

But what is it and why does it matter for HR?...

We’re almost at the halfway point of 2021, and there’s been a lot of encouraging changes recently as the UK eases further out of lockdown. But many of us won’t be feeling positive or overly negative about the changes, some of us will actually be sat somewhere in the middle, which is known as languishing.

When we talk about mental health, it’s often in relation to chronic mental health conditions like depression or anxiety, but there’s a whole spectrum of mental health.

If you want to become an employer of choice and retain your talent this year, then you need to tackle languishing. According to Benenden Health, 55% of employees say they would look for a new job if their mental wellbeing wasn’t being supported by their employer, increasing to 78% amongst 18-24 years old.

Here’s what languishing is, how it might be affecting your employees and what you can do about it... 


What is languishing? 

Originally coined by sociologist Corey Keyes, languishing is in between having good mental health (known as flourishing) and suffering from more serious mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. People who are languishing won’t have symptoms of mental illness, but they’re not the picture of health either.

“Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health”
- Adam Grant, Psychologist

Those people who are languishing might have trouble concentrating, feel aimless or a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It can be summed up as a feeling of just muddling through days, which many of us may be able to relate too given the last year we’ve all been through.


Why do HR need to be worried about languishing?

On the surface, languishing may not seem to be much of a concern. After all, we all have days where we can’t concentrate or just need to get through the day. But languishing can have long-term implications and it might be more widespread than you think. According to the American Psychological Association languishing is more common than depression.

In the short-term your employees may struggle with motivation and focus, meaning they won’t be as productive as they could be and might need to have time off work to reset their batteries. Looking more long-term, research has shown that the people who are languishing now are those more likely to experience major depression or anxiety in the next ten years (American Public Health Association).


What can HR to do support employees?

Give advice to your employees to manage languishing:

It can be tricky to know how to help your employees with their mental health. From focussing on small goals to taking time away from work there are small changes to their day that your staff can try to improve their mental wellbeing. Here’s a few to get you started:

  • Giving yourself uninterrupted time: whether it’s emails or messages, we live in a world where it can be hard to find time to focus. To help, try to set aside time to yourself by turning off those notifications, even if it’s a couple hours a week, every little helps!
  • Focus on small goals: large goals can be difficult to find the motivation to start, particularly if you’re experiencing languishing. Try to break these down into smaller, more manageable steps. They should be just enough to stretch your skills and heighten your resolve. It could be work related, or a project at home.
  • Avoid frequent swapping between tasks: it’s all too easy to constantly swap between tasks to try and get everything on our to-do lists done, but often that has the opposite effect. So instead try to dedicate yourself to one task at a time.
  • Take time away: in the last year many of us haven’t had anywhere we could go, so we might not have been using as much annual leave as we need. But this isn’t good for our mental health. Encourage your employees to take time away from work, even if it’s just a long weekend spent relaxing at home.
  • Focus on what makes you happy, not what should: there are many things that you might feel should bring us joy, but don’t. So, make sure to explore what actually makes you happy. This could be growing some herbs in your kitchen, walking round the local park, or reading in the evening.
  • Practice mindfulness: whether it’s meditation, yoga, or breathing exercises, totally immersing ourselves in any activity can help us learn how to accept our experiences rather than react to them.

Offer further support with an Employee Assistance Programme:

For your employees who need that additional support and/or someone to talk to, an EAP can really help. It gives them access to confidential support from BACP accredited counsellors, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, via email, phone, online or face-to-face.

Tacking languishing isn’t something to take lightly as it can lead to more serious mental health issues in the future. Keep an eye out for the warning signs in yourself and your teams, and make some changes today.


How we can help:

If you need support creating a wellbeing strategy that puts your employee’s mental health and wellbeing at its heart we can help. Get in touch with our experts today to see how we can help you create a workplace culture that is open about mental health.

Employee Assistance Programmes


Benenden Health
American Psychological Association
American Public Health Association