The norms of the workplace have changed drastically over the last couple of decades and COVID-19 has accelerated that process, leaving everyone to wonder what the future of work looks like. People are used to putting on their corporate mask (as well as their real one’s), and presenting their best selves at the office. Now, employees are virtually welcoming people into their homes with the transition to remote work. They are scrambling to get their virtual background up to hide their make-shift living room office, or the toys left askew from spending time with the kids the night prior. Sound exhausting?

The standard of workplaces are evolving and leaders need to move with them. It’s time to embrace the mess, take your virtual background down, and share more than just your two-cents at a corporate meeting. Leaders need to flex their style and start setting new norms, making employees comfortable in these new conditions. It’s time to accept the new reality, let go of the corporate persona, and live more authentically! 

The Future of Work Depends on Emotional Intelligence 

The future of work depends on developing leadership with emotional intelligence. Once leaders accept these new circumstances, and develop more present-day practices and attitudes, employees will feel cared for, and retention, engagement, and productivity will follow. 

It’s time to knock down the corporate facade, and follow the mandate we, at EI Experience (our corporate brand), lived by  – Make being human in the workplace OK again. 

Creating Emotionally Intelligent Norms 

Emotions have made their way into the workplace, and lately, people are experiencing more of them! No one can simply flip a switch and turn off their loneliness, stress, or anxiety once they start their work day. It is a myth that mixing emotions into the workplace has a negative effect on the culture or productivity. In fact, Liz Fossien, co-author of the Wall Street Journal best-seller, No Hard Feelings: The Secret Power of Embracing Emotions at Work, states “in the moments when our colleagues drop their glossy professional presentation, we are much more likely to believe what they are telling us. We feel connected to the people around us. We try harder. Perform better. And we are just generally kinder. So it’s about time we learn how to embrace emotion at work.”

During this time of world-wide despair, and lack of social connection, people are needing to embrace emotions more and more. So, how do leaders of an organization create norms that allow employees to respectfully express their emotions in the workplace? The key is – leaders need to go first. They need to step out their comfort zone and be the first to admit their vulnerabilities, and open the conversation to a deeper conversation beyond the agenda for the meeting. 

If leaders can unveil their own humanness, employees will feel more comfortable and connected to their superior, as well as their work. It can be as simple as removing your virtual background to show your messy office, allowing furry friends to join meetings, or having 5 minutes to get up and stretch during long meetings (who cares if you’re wearing sweat pants below your blouse and blazer!).  Even starting the meeting off with a simple “How is everyone feeling?”, can open the opportunity for an intimate conversation beyond the usual “how was your weekend”, water-cooler chatter that was going on before. 

By taking the corporate pressure off even slightly, it helps build a more empathetic workplace culture. When leaders show that they genuinely care about their employees, and move from employing to empowering their organization, the future of work suddenly won’t be so scary.

Lights, Cameras, Action 

Empowering and engaging employees has become a new obstacle for leaders, but it’s time to stop using it as a crutch to a poorly engaged workforce. It’s time to move into the stage of acceptance, and learn how to truly engage with the virtual workforce. Now that leaders are being exposed to their employees’ home-life through virtual work, the intimacy of the conversations has actually increased. Leaders just need to pay attention and communicate with intention. 

First of all, cameras need to be on. By making it standard to have your camera on the entire meeting, with no judgement, people will start to feel more comfortable with presenting, engaging, and communicating virtually. With cameras on, people will be able to pick up in their peers’ emotional cues. Creating a norm of putting people out of their comfort zones can help break the uncomfortable barriers that come with virtual meetings. 

Further, by having cameras on, it is inviting their peers into their home! This provides a chance for leaders to connect with employees and inquire more about the employee as a not only someone who works with them, but as a person with a life outside of work. It is as simple as focusing on the employee as a human. Maybe, one of the employees has a guitar in the background, and a peer shares the same interest. Now, those two employees are connected not only on a project they are working on together at work, but a personal commonality.

Know Your Audience 

When leaders become more emotionally invested in their workplace, it allows them to become more aware of the individual and collective struggles their employees are going through.  Leaders need to use their EI skills to adapt to all the changes that are coming to the workplace. There are four key components of emotional intelligence that leaders need to instill into their workplace culture.

1. Empathy

By empowering employees to be more empathetic, it will create a culture of understanding. All different levels on the corporate ladder are facing different challenges. Some people cannot grasp the technological expectations. Others may have to home-school their children. Maybe one of your employees lost a family member to COVID-19. By constantly checking in with each other, people develop a level of patience and kindness for their peers. When empathy is reciprocated throughout the organization, people will not hesitate to pick up the slack for a colleague having a bad day, because they know it will be paid back in the future. Empathy is the main component to knowing the audience of the workplace, and putting each others’ wellness as a top priority. 

2. Social Responsibility

Being socially responsible means caring about others and contributing to the community in which they live, the organization in which they work, or the people which they lead.  In essence, it means giving back.  Leaders cannot individually take care of an entire organization. That is why instilling social responsibility, and helping others, into the culture of an organization is essential. Right now, people are looking for support beyond general workplace tasks. Leaders need to create a safe place for employees to connect, and support each other and eventually a chain reaction of kindness will flow through on all organizational levels. A key element of personal social responsibility is endeavouring to have a positive impact on others and the environment. By recognizing that our every action and utterance impacts those around us, we become more conscious of our words and actions and therefore are more likely to act in a socially responsible way.

3. Optimism

People are well aware of the negativity going on in the world, they do not want to hear about it in the workplace. Everyday people are subconsciously doom scrolling on social media – and being exposed to endless negative online news.   It is vital to navigate through these conversations with positivity. For example, ask questions about their day, weekend, family, upcoming celebrations, etc. Leaders need to show their employees that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and this too shall pass. By supporting the needs of the organization, universally or individually, it helps bring positivity into the workplace and makes working a happy escape. Optimistic people tend to expect good things to happen and anticipate the best positive outcomes in any situation. So, as dim as the news may appear, be the leader that trusts that things will turn out well.

4. Flexibility & Stress Management

Everyone handles their stress differently, and leaders need to acknowledge that everyone is adjusting in their own ways. Adapting to peoples’ individual needs is essential. It is important to understand the subtle cues employees are giving off when they are stressed and also appreciate their boundaries. Offering a helping hand or resources to help employees get through these difficult times can exponentially help employees feel more valued at work. Two-way communication is essential in making sure the stress of the organization doesn’t affect the productivity of work, and people are getting the individual support they need to keep stress down, and stay engaged at work. 

Investing in Your Emotions 

When leaders invest in their own emotional intelligence journey, it helps them to create a safe place for their employees to express, communicate, and feel their emotions without judgement. Emotional intelligence can be learned, developed and enhanced. If people want to take time to get a handle on their emotions, take one of our self-directed Online Courses individually, or as a group or company or invest in Emotional Intelligence Training, and build an emotionally intelligent repertoire to bring into the workplace culture. It’s time to open the door to emotionally intelligent leaders, and foster a culture of acceptance, empathy, and care. The future of work is in the hands of leaders to show their true selves behind their corporate mask that has been on for far too long. 

If you are interested in learning more about why bringing emotional intelligence into your workplace is essential, check out our blog – Why Emotional Intelligence is Important in the Workplace. Alternatively, if you think your whole team would benefit from building their Emotional Intelligence skills, check out our Workshops available in live or virtual formats. 

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