Your Virtual Team is (Probably) Languishing Thanks to Covid. Here’s How to Tell (Part 1)

The transition to the virtual working world was supposed to be a process. It started in earnest as the proliferation of good wi-fi, better internet speeds, and more reliable technology began to create a landscape where working from home could be as seamless as going to the office. We weren’t there yet, but we would be one day.

Then the Covid-19 pandemic hit, and suddenly that day was today – whether we were ready or not. Overnight, the virtual working world became the only working world for millions of employees. As a leader, you may feel like you’re on top of this paradigm shift, but many are still playing catch-up: technologically, socially, and emotionally. Do your team members feel like they are in as good a place as you do?

We ask because research suggests that they don’t. Microsoft recently ran an article about how leaders and their team members have been faring in this shift, and the answers are sobering. We are seeing languishing virtual teams.

According to their analysis, 61% of leaders described themselves as ‘thriving’ in this new world, but only 38% percent of their team members say the same thing. That’s 62% of all team members who aren’t feeling comfortable in their virtual office, who don’t feel that same level of success. If you’re a team leader, this is something you can’t afford to ignore, because it suggests that you and those you are leading are simply not having the same experience.

What Am I Missing?

We’ve spoken often about the fundamentals of running a virtual office. It is things like:

They are simple maxims, simple rules, and if you’re a regular reader, you already know that. You’ve taken our advice, so what makes this different? What’s the X factor? Why do your team members feel they’re not thriving?

Not Sick, But Not Well

Your team members might be experiencing what psychologists call ‘languishing.’

Languishing is a curious phenomenon because it exists between positive and negative emotions. Someone who is languishing is not depressed, but they’re not thriving, either. It is what you might call a ‘liminal’ emotion: an in-between feeling for an in-between time, the absence of well-being. Not sick, but not well.

In the context of a virtual team, languishing can lead to inertia, decreased motivation, lower productivity, scattered attention, and diminished energy. It can be hard to raise concerns about because those stuck in a languishing state of mind feel that because things are stable, they must be okay.

Meanwhile, your team’s morale and productivity suffer, and nobody knows why.

What About You?

Nobody is immune.

What does languishing look like for virtual leaders?

Often, the inability to motivate yourself translates into an inability to motivate others. You may feel less resilient, making it harder to help your team build the resilience they need to thrive and persevere.

When both you and your team are languishing, you’re going to have to work hard to fix it. We’ll cover what those steps are in the next instalment of this two-part series.

If languishing has you particularly worried about the state of your team, why not take our Virtual Team Performance Survey to see where you stand? You’ll get the lowdown on how your team is handling this new, virtual-only world and help us understand your needs for making your team as effective as it can be.