How Emotional Intelligence Can Improve Your Office Life

By Emerson Foster, Vice President of Human Resources at Sodexo

Will a design change in the office solve workplace conflicts?

How about more natural light?

How about a plant on every desk?

Or mediation classes and free tea?

The answer may surprise you. A new study shows that when employers experimented with interventions that targeted employee well-being – specifically the emotional intelligence of their workforce – they saw a significant boost in happiness and creativity.

Creating an “Emotionally Intelligent Workplace” is emerging as one of the top trends globally according to the latest Global Workplace Trends Report.

The study (which, full disclosure, my company supports) works with futurists and business strategists to uncover the emerging ideas that are likely to be embraced en masse. Past reports heralding the coming of Smart buildings and virtual work.

This year, of the seven emerging trends, experts found a new appreciation for the components of emotional intelligence – self-awareness, social awareness, self-management and relationship management. In fact, a CareerBuilder survey found that 71 percent of employers said they valued EI over IQ in their employees and just over a third said they look for high EI when hiring.

So the next step is for employers to figure out how to nurture and perhaps improve the general EI.

This can take many forms, from redesigning workspaces to incorporating natural elements in offices to offering concierge services and interactive trainings. When done right, the study found that interventions can improve EI competencies by 70 percent. 

Be warned, though, tearing down walls and placing a plant-on-every-desk might not make much difference. Blanket approaches might even make things worse.

“An open concept workplace may support employees’ needs for social interaction, but not their needs for focus or rest,” write Psychologist Daniel Goleman and Cary Cooper, a professor at Manchester Business School in an accompanying analysis.

They suggest employees invest in a comprehensive assessment of their current workplace EI and employee input before implementing changes. Also, they say, it’s important programs and services be flexible enough to be personalized so employees feel more autonomous.

“This may sound daunting, but taking small steps is key — and keeping the overall workplace experience in mind can help paint a picture of the long-term vision for success,” the authors write.

“Ultimately, forward thinking companies know the value of the emotionally intelligent workplace — a value that will only continue to grow in importance in the years ahead.”

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