Written by Dr Sinead Kelly
4 MIN READ
According to a recent Ipsos poll, 1 out of 5 Americans are in a state of languishing. The concept of languishing was first described by sociologist Corey Keynes (2002) as feelings of “emptiness and stagnation, constituting a life of quiet despair…” The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines languishing as the “absence of mental health, characterised by ennui, apathy, listlessness, and loss of interest in life”. Although languishing may overlap with symptoms of depression, it is not characterised as a clinical manifestation. Instead, languishing is considered a state marked by the absence of mental wellness that people can experience at different stages throughout their lives. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, feelings of loneliness and isolation coupled with increased workloads, have had a deleterious impact on mental health (Panchel et al., 2021).
Recent studies have also highlighted the critical state of wellbeing in the workplace, with 67% of workers reporting increased levels of burnout (Indeed, 2021). According to organisational psychologist Adam Grant, an increasing proportion of employees are experiencing feelings of languishing, including loss of motivation and focus, preventing workers from achieving their full potential (Grant, 2021). In fact, languishing can increase the need for employees to cut back on their workload by three-fold (Keynes, 2002). People experiencing languishing are considered “trapped” in the middle of the mental health spectrum with symptoms not severe enough to meet clinical criteria but not optimal enough to thrive and flourish.
The good news is that feelings of languishing can be alleviated through interventions that promote wellbeing. At the pinnacle of the mental health spectrum lies the ability to flourish. Flourishing is a state in which a person feels positive about their life, feels connected to themselves and others, and has a strong sense of purpose allowing for optimal functioning (Keynes et al., 2002). Various techniques have proven to be effective in promoting mental wellness, including mindfulness-based interventions, cognitive and behavioural-based interventions, as well as multi-component positive psychological interventions (van Agteren et al., 2021). As mental health services continue to be overburdened, digital mental health platforms may offer an affordable, accessible, and effective means for delivering such interventions to people and workplaces.
Recognising the urgent need to address feelings of languishing in the community, the Paradym suite of services offer both self-guided and group coaching options for individuals and organisations. These services are developed by mental health experts drawing on evidence-based psychological and therapeutic interventions. Our recent study revealed that 80% of Paradym app users experienced increased well-being and lower depression scores after a minimum of two weeks using the app (Eisenstadt et al., 2021). In addition to the Paradym app, the Groups feature allows users to join weekly group sessions with an assigned mental health professional. Over a decade of research indicates that group coaching can improve wellbeing by enhancing personal strengths, self-efficacy, leadership, and team building (Armstrong et al., 2013; McDowall & Butterworth, 2014). The introduction of this blended approach at Paradym has resulted in a significant increase in user retention and engagement over a six week period, with 76% of users completing all chapters of the Paradym app.
Considering the effectiveness of group coaching, as well as the need for wellbeing interventions in the workplace, Paradym for Teams was developed to help address feelings of languishing among employees by fostering connection, collaboration, and motivation. Research suggests that interventions in the workplace are best delivered at a group level (Brown & Grant, 2009) with such interventions shown to promote team building and leadership (Hackman & Wageman, 2005; Goldsmith & Morgan, 2000). Group coaching cultivates a shared purpose through shared goal-setting to enhance team productivity. Brown and Grant (2010) emphasise the importance of group awareness and the ability to truly understand others to enable generative solutions at a systemic level. They claim that group dialogue brings people together to help with insights, decision-making and goal achievement. These essential team-building skills are more important now than ever considering today’s turbulent climate of worker burnout and blended work options leaving employees with feelings of isolation, loneliness, and disconnection (Cigna, 2020). Through Paradym’s bespoke coaching service, in conjunction with the self-guided app, employees have the opportunity to improve their teamwork and manage their wellbeing using evidence-based techniques.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered how we live and work in unimaginable ways. These challenging times have not only exacerbated the burden of mental health conditions in the population but have also highlighted a marked absence of mental wellness. Despite the concerning statistics surrounding the “languishing middle”, Paradym can empower individuals and workplaces to traverse this penumbra. Through accessible evidence-based interventions, people and organisations can gain practical skills to enhance their overall wellbeing and re-discover their ability to flourish.