From ‘Meh’ to ‘Motivated’: Combatting Languishing Through Incentive Travel

COVID-19 has added — or resurfaced — many new phrases into our daily vocabularies. Some are cause for mass groans and grumbles: many of us would be happy to never have to use terms like “unprecedented” and “force majeure” again.

But one of the more compelling buzzwords introduced thanks to COVID is “languishing.” The word was the subject of the most-read New York Times article in 2021, prompting the Times to label it “the dominant emotion of 2021.”

Languishing isn’t limited to our personal lives, but can also surface in our workplaces — unfortunately in bleak ways.

“The term languishing describe[s] ‘the absence of feeling good about your life,’” says a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article on the topic, also noting, “When you’re languishing, you feel a lack of meaning and a desire to ‘fit in’ emotionally.”

Languishing may seem like odd word to connect to incentive travel given that incentives are linked to high performance and rewards. But after multiple years of working through a pandemic, it’s fair to assume that even top performers might be experiencing a bit of burnout.

Pause for reflections and celebrations

Consider advice at the heart of the HBR article that one of the best ways for an employee to combat languishing is to reflect on their path, successes, and mission and identify personal drivers of long-term success — things like happiness, achievement, significance, and legacy.

If that list sounds familiar, it’s for good reason: a good incentive program can deliver these drivers in spades. Incentive travel instills a sense of pride, shows employees how they’ve made a positive impact, and aligns with individuals’ values and accomplishments. Ensure these remain key goals of a program, and you’ll have already taken a solid step toward negating languishing symptoms.

Craft solid working relationships

HBR also advises languishers to try three different “job crafting” strategies to connect in with their work and rediscover what’s (at least somewhat) enjoyable or fulfilling about it.

One of these strategies is “relational crafting,” explained by HBR as “creating an emotional connection with the people around you and maybe even strengthening your current relationships. Basically, you improve your job by altering who you interact with.”

Relational crafting, it turns out, is at the heart of incentive travel and one of its great unlocks. Making relational crafting — be it with senior leaders, other colleagues, or even personal travel companions — a central part of a program’s design can be a fast-track way to increase joy, encourage future performance, and combat languishing symptoms long after leaving an incentive destination.  

Satisfaction increasingly crucial for success

“In these times” (another phrase many of us groan at!), employee wellbeing has rightfully taken on increased importance, as managers realize that a physically and mentally satisfied workforce is a prerequisite to a productive one.

With languishing currently one of the biggest socio-emotional crises impacting workplaces, well-designed incentive travel can help address its symptoms or even prevent it in the first place — as long as we get creative and dig deeper into its strategic uses.

Written by

SITE Staff


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