“At the beginning, I didn’t recognise the symptoms that the whole team is having. My colleagues said they were having trouble concentrating. Others felt demotivated. One friend was getting up early to go jogging before coming to work. A family member stayed up late watching the Thursday programme. And I would spend hours just lying there staring at the ceiling. It wasn’t boredom: I felt good like that. It wasn’t tiredness: I had energy. It wasn’t depression either: I wasn’t sad. The malaise I felt had a name: it was called listlessness”.
The term was coined by sociologist Corey Keyes in 2002 in an attempt to describe the state of emptiness and stagnation that many people suffer from. Don’t worry if this is the first time you’ve heard it, in this article we’ll tell you what it is, what its symptoms are and who suffers from it.
Make yourself comfortable, let’s get started!
What is languishing?
The malaise you feel has a name, as well as being the dominant emotion of recent years. It’s called listlessness. And according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA) “it is the absence of mental health characterised by weariness, dissatisfaction, apathy, and loss of interest in almost everything”.
Listlessness is more common than you think. It has manifested itself in sportsmen, such as those of that exhausted Valencia Club de Fútbol at the beginning of the century that El País baptised with the headline “El club de Mestalla no sabe cómo frenar la decadencia” (The Mestalla club doesn’t know how to halt the decline). In politics, with debates lacking spark that have taken up little space in media outlets such as El Correo Gallego. And in business, presenting itself as a symptom of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How to deal with it, how many employees suffer from it, how does it affect their performance?
8 symptoms of listlessness
“I don’t know why I’m here. I’m not going to get anywhere doing a job that doesn’t matter. I’m not cut out for this. I need to get out of this loop. I don’t enjoy anything I do.”
Sound familiar? Whatever the answer, read on to learn the symptoms of employee listlessness:
- They isolate themselves from social contact with colleagues.
- It has been a long time since they last enjoyed anything in the company.
- They suffer from concentration problems.
- They find it difficult to make plans for the future.
- They feel demotivated and listless.
- They get new clients but fail to build a good relationship with them.
- There is little or no communication between workers and departments.
- They have difficulties in carrying out their tasks.
In recent years, we have all felt a bit stuck, but now we know what that feeling is called.
Characteristics of the absence of mental health
Have you been feeling empty for a while and don’t know why? Have you lost your enthusiasm for everything for no reason? Languor may be the answer to many of your questions. We explain its characteristics to help you find the answer to your doubts:
- Weariness, a combination of tiredness, boredom and dissatisfaction.
- Apathy, as a consequence of being trapped between demotivation and exhaustion.
- Dissatisfaction, prolonged complaining and discontent.
- Loss of interest, feelings of guilt and frustration.
- Stagnation and emptiness, unpleasant feelings when you have no purpose.
This feeling has quietly spread hand in hand with the coronavirus pandemic. The good news is that we can overcome it.
The mental health of employees
Do you think your team has difficulty concentrating, has been feeling low in mood and energy?
Remember that mental health is not just the absence of illness. It’s a factor that ranges from severe symptoms such as depression to wonderful wellbeing. At any one time, some of your workers may be super-motivated, but others may be down in the dumps. In the first case, they are productive and efficient. In the second, they have low self-esteem and struggle to get their work done.
Just think: how many workers are in the first or the second situation? We’ve taken a look at BetterUp’s analysis of the distribution of mental health levels in companies over 11 months – take a look at the graph below!
Some conclusions drawn from the graph are:
- 5% of employees suffer from severe languishing, with a very marked level of stress and mental exhaustion.
- 55% of employees are in the middle, but at certain times they are languishing. This can lead to concentration problems, feelings of emptiness and stagnation.
- 35% are thriving towards mental health, are empathetic and feel committed to the company’s goals.
- The remaining 5% are functional employees, with good levels of mental health, motivated by challenges, inspired and eager to continue to grow personally and professionally.
Without well-being, life is not life.
Who are the people most likely to suffer from listlessness?
If listlessness is so important, why does it seem to be the neglected child of mental health? Perhaps because it is not recognised in the international classification of mental disorders, neither by the American Psychiatric Association nor by the European Association. Or perhaps because we are afraid to acknowledge our decline.
In any case, many people have no symptoms of mental illness, but neither are they the living image of health. They do not live life as if they were going to die tomorrow. They do not work at full speed. Nor do they feel enthusiastic about the start of a new year.
Languor can affect anyone, but those who have experienced bereavement or job loss are more prone to it. Why? Because these are difficult situations that require resilience, control over our lives and human connection. In other words, emotional competencies and attitudes that are sometimes very difficult to bring out when the world comes crashing down on us.
Without this sense of control, we run the risk of languishing.
Languor: a universal problem before the pandemic?
Data always speaks louder than words, so we have compiled some statistics from before, during and after the pandemic.
- Corporate apathy before COVID
According to a 2017 Gallup survey, 85% of employees worldwide admitted to feeling dissatisfied and disengaged at work. The same report found that around 15% of workers were engaged in their work, rising to 30% in the United States. It also highlights the interest of millennials and centennials in staying in companies that help them to grow and develop. Another Deloitte analysis published before the pandemic confirmed the shortage of passion in the workforce that US companies were facing.
- Languishing in business after COVID
Some time after the start of the pandemic, especially in 2022, an increased focus on the mental and emotional health of the workforce is expected. This is a major challenge along with the shift “from a work-life balance to an integrally balanced life”. (Infobae) In addition, an increase in the number of workers leaving their jobs to start new projects is also foreseen. It seems that the business world is entering an era of revaluation of skills and attitudes. The present demands improving human skills to be able to face the future of work, which is why strategies such as upskilling (optimisation of knowledge), reskilling (professional recycling), and investment in Tech Coaching are being put into practice.
To conclude this section, we conclude that mental ill-health was already a problem before the pandemic, but its impact is greater now. Isolation and uncertainty have not gone unnoticed, so companies run the risk that languishing employees may develop mental illness.
Seize the opportunity to improve the mental health of your workers!
Summarising the importance of mental health in business
What do you call what you feel? Maybe that feeling of stagnation and emptiness that makes you feel demotivated and takes away your ability to concentrate, both for you and the rest of the team, is affecting you personally and professionally. But do you know what? You can regain your enthusiasm with these recommendations:
- Focus on achievable goals. Demonstrate your skills to yourself.
- Recognise the feelings you are feeling. It is the first step to move forward.
- Focus on the process. Don’t focus on the outcome.
Gallup’s analysis of 160 countries, mentioned in this article, concludes something very interesting. And that is that companies must “shift from having command-and-control managers to high-performance coaches”.
At ChVmpionMind, we have the antidote to the languishing problems that companies suffer from – contact us and find out what it is!