This morning the start of the great return to the workplace began. Whether you were a happy returner or not, it is clear we are having to adapt again to a new way of working.
According to a survey done by the Whitaker Institute at NUI Galway in 2020 on 5,639 people, a staggering 94% of respondents said they would like to continue to work remotely once the crisis had ended. 52% also said they have worked more hours since working remotely.
In the Whitaker Institute’s latest survey done in May of this year, 95% of respondents said they would like to work remotely either some or all of the time.
The way we work has changed forever. I think we can at least all agree upon that. It has however led to both logistical issues for managers and leaders and that’s just the start of issues to be worked out.
If we look back to the start of the pandemic in Ireland, we had no choice but to adapt. Working from home became the norm pretty much overnight. It only took a few weeks before we saw the toll it was taking – the lines became blurred between work and home. Trying to home school while holding down a job became next to impossible and yet people soldiered on.
Now we need to adapt again and this time we need to get it right because it is the future.
How can the Employer use EI to adapt to this new model?
There are two traits that employers need to ensure if they want to build a successful Hybrid Work Model. Trust and Accountability. If you can ensure that each employee is fully aware of their responsibilities, whether at home or back in the office, you can begin to build trust.
Psychological safety is paramount. Give people an opportunity to air their views, their grievances, and their fears. Managers are seriously lacking in many cases in this regard. They see it as a threat to their role or ‘giving in’ or ‘being too soft,’ whereas nothing could be further from the truth.
You need to be aware of what will enable peak performance from your employees. If you want to ensure success in the workplace building trust and accountability are essential.
So where does Emotional Intelligence come into the picture and how can it help?
For managers and leaders developing self-awareness will enable you to carry out the above (building trust and accountability) by doing a personal audit on yourself.
What are your greatest challenges currently? What is your style of leadership and is it effective? Are you getting regular feedback yourself?
Self-Regulation is how you handle yourself in the workplace. It is vital to understand your own emotions and behaviours so that you can modify, adapt, and improve where necessary. What are your blind spots? You need to know, and if you don’t know you need to ask someone to help you find out. This is the intrapersonal aspect of EI – managing the self.
When it comes to managing others – the Interpersonal aspect of EI – social awareness is key. Who are the best communicators in your team? Is there someone who is struggling who could use a little empathy right now? What is going on in their situation? Really try to put yourself in their situation and see if from their point of view. Using Emotional Intelligence to deal with both your own emotions and behaviours and to understand those of others, will propel you from a good manager or leader to a truly excellent one.
What about the Employee? How can he/she use Emotional Intelligence to Adapt to a Hybrid Working Model?
In the same way that the Manager/Leader has to be fully aware of how their emotions and behaviours impact on both themselves and others, the same holds true for any employee.
This is particularly important if he or she is feeling apprehensive about the new working model. It is essential that you are able to voice your concerns to your manager. If you feel unable to do so, is there a colleague or mentor who could help you?
The most important aspect of developing your self-awareness is understanding what it is about your job that motivates you. If going back to the office de-motivates you, why is that? Could you express those issues/concerns to your manager? If you are going to move to a Hybrid model, have you prepared yourself mentally for that change?
What are the advantages and disadvantages and how do they affect you?
Any good manager will appreciate an employee who takes the initiative on issues that arise. See if you can find a potential solution before you talk to management. The worst they can do is say no. It’s all about building trust, communicating openly and not being afraid to stand up for what you need.
Get yourself into the right mindset. You’ve been hired by this organisation to do a job. Do you want to just be another average employee, or would you like to make a real difference? If there are obstacles in your way or you feel unsupported, how could you change that?
Being aware of both the intrapersonal traits of Emotional Intelligence (related to the self) and the interpersonal traits of EI (relating to others) will greatly enhance your career prospects. Use self-awareness to take your own personal audit of how the new Hybrid Model is going to affect your work. Use social awareness to see if it will impact on how you relate to both your manager and your colleagues and how you can ensure clear communication going forward.
To sum up, both employers and employees need to take stock at this time of change. If they can use self-awareness to communicate clearly, build trust and accountability and nurture both the self and each other, the future looks bright.
I currently run both a half-day and a full-day workshop on this topic. If you would like to receive the brochure for the workshop, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily send you a copy.
 McCarthy, A., Bohle Carbonell, K., Ó Síocháin, T. and Frost, D. (2020). Remote Working during COVID-19: Ireland’s National Survey – Phase II Report. Galway, Ireland: NUI Galway Whitaker Institute & Western Development Commission.