Your Virtual Team is (Probably) Languishing Thanks to Covid. Here’s What to Do (Part 2)

Last article, we discussed what languishing 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. Not depressed, but not motivated.

For virtual teams and leaders stuck at home, isolated with no ability to socialize, languishing is a real risk. Everyone may insist that everything is fine, but it’s clear that nothing is as it should be. Morale is low, motivation seems lacking, and while no one is failing, neither are they thriving. It’s clear something must be done – but what?

Talk to Your Virtual Team

What can we do for a virtual team that is languishing? The first, best thing that you can do as a leader is to talk about languishing with your team. You’d be amazed at how having a word to describe a feeling can help people diagnose it. Those who never knew about languishing can learn what to look out for and how to recognize it.

Great questions to start the discussion with a virtual team that is languishing include:

How are you taking care of yourself?

Asking “how” opens a dialogue and communicates genuine interest on your part to understand your staff as individuals.

What else could you do to take care of yourself?

Sometimes we worry that addressing mental work issues is wasted time that could be spent more productively – that it’s better to grit your teeth simply push through.

Don’t let your team members fall into that trap. When you ask if there’s anything more your team could be doing for themselves, it lets them know that their welfare is a top priority and opens their mind to new possibilities.

What can I do to reduce your pain points?

For a virtual team that is languishing, the languishing may be a personal issue, but as a leader you may be able to help ease some of the strain in their work environment. Asking this question lets them know that you’re ready and willing to be part of the solution for languishing and makes them feel comfortable bringing issues to your attention.

It is important to remember that your team may not be aware that they’re languishing. Here are two suggestions you can use to make things easier for the team as a whole:

1. Allow for uninterrupted time

Developing a rhythm of focus and attention can take time to get going, so the more you can minimize disruptions to that rhythm, the better. Home offices often provide ample distraction in the form of family and pets even before disruptions from the office enter the picture.

You can’t control that – but you can control work interruptions.

The gradual loss of focus and attention that comes from languishing can be mitigated by paring down interruptions. Establish meeting-free Mondays. Pick an afternoon where Slack or Teams chat is kept to an absolute minimum. Ask your time for other ideas to help them focus and hit their stride.

2. Small Goals, Big Wins

If a team member is struggling with motivation, introduce small goals to provide encouragement and set achievable targets. We do this all the time with household projects: de-cluttering the whole house is intimidating, but if we just start with one room, the task becomes a series of bite-sized chunks.

The same holds true with your work projects. The big goals at the end of the month can feel overwhelming, but if you can add smaller goals into the mix – personal, everyday goals that matter to an individual – you might see a marked change.

These goals don’t all have to be work-related, either. They just have to matter to your team member and provide them with satisfaction that the goal is complete. The rush of consistent success can help your team overcome the malaise of low motivation brought on by languishing.

Your team members can’t control the pandemic, or the entirety of their big project, but they can control their incremental goals. They can make the changes, do the work, succeed, and repeat it all again the next day. Soon, achievement becomes a habit of successes, kicking languishing to the curb.

When Everyone Triumphs, Virtual Teams Win

If you’re open and honest with your team about the strange challenges posed by languishing, you equipped them to recognize problems, find solutions, and implement them successfully. Your team and you can thrive together and face whatever the future of virtual work holds in store.

And if you want to learn more about that future, why not check out Virtual Work Trends That Will Shape the Future? We can’t prepare for everything – the pandemic has shown us that. But we can prepare as best we’re able by staying informed about what the future might bring, so long as we’re aware enough to look out for it.