Why Emotional Intelligence should power workplace wellbeing programmes

Nov 16 2022 | Tags: Emotional Intelligence

Why Emotional Intelligence should power workplace wellbeing programmes

As a HR leader, workplace wellbeing is likely one of your key priorities – because as a society we are living through a period of huge disruption. This disruption is placing new pressures and challenges on both employees and the organisations for which they work.

Changing technology, changing working practices, increased awareness of mental health, workers wanting more flexibility, and businesses competing on different recruitment attributes are just some of the issues leaders are now having to navigate on a daily basis.

For HR leaders, the overall aims remain clear. They need to get the best out of their people to help their businesses perform at their best. While the ways of achieving this are not always straightforward, wellbeing programmes play a crucial part. Successful wellbeing programmes are proven to:

  • Improve workplace culture
  • Attract and retain talent
  • Overcome the challenges of remote working

Understanding the core tenets of great wellbeing programmes

Barbara Fredrickson from the University of North Carolina has led research that documents the powerful effects of positive emotions in protecting and generating wellbeing. Her work has found that positive emotions act as powerful antidotes to potential health issues. Following work in over 60 companies in which she analysed communication patterns during business meetings, she found an important relationship between the number of positive statements exchanged and economic flourishing. In fact, she described it as a ratio – workplaces where at least 2.9 or more positive statements were made to every one negative statement generally correlated with companies that were financially flourishing. Those with a lower ratio were not as financially robust.

Many of the skills needed to observe, generate and articulate those positive emotions are borne out of the 10 core competencies used in the Emotional Capital framework

Here are just four of those competencies crucial for establishing high levels of wellbeing in a workplace, and which can be easily developed with a strong commitment to Emotional Intelligence training.

1. Optimism

Over 23 years of research, optimism has been found to be the strongest predictor of wellbeing. In the Emotional Capital framework, it is made up of three components:

  • Positive mood, as highlighted by Barbara Fredrickson’s work, which demonstrates the powerful impact of positive emotions on creating emotionally healthy, productive workplace cultures.
  • Opportunity sensing, which can be understood as a skill involving your perception of the world: is life full of opportunities, or is it really just a series of obstacles? Our perception of this determines largely how we manage our response to challenges.
  • Resilience, which is arguably the most important component of optimism. Resilience involves the ability of people to bounce back from setbacks and refocus on the tasks at hand. This is a skill that can be cultivated and helps inoculate people against setbacks and protect their wellbeing.

Oracle is one company that has directly seen the positive results of investing in Emotional Intelligence. Following an initial programme, it was able to improve the resilience and wellbeing of its customer-facing teams to such an extent that 92% of its staff reported an increase in positivity and 89% noticed an increase in confidence. Its senior vice president of northern Europe said the training had “transformed our business culture”.

2. Self-confidence

Self-confidence, and the basic sense of our self-worth, provides a fundamental foundation for personal growth and wellbeing. High self-confidence is one of the strongest correlates of life satisfaction. On the Emotional Capital framework, self-confidence is made up of three components:

  • Self-liking, which is our ability to value ourselves and treat ourselves with compassion.
  • Self-competence, which is often considered even more important than self-liking and is about our belief in our capacity to complete challenging tasks and embrace appropriate risk. It enables people to be at their best every day, because they feel good about what they do.
  • Self-assurance, which is key to us being able to remain calm in the face of challenges and maintain an authentic presence that strengthens and reassures others.

3. Relationship skills

Relationships play an important role in maintaining mental health and wellbeing. Research has shown that people with more friends and more love in their life endure fewer instances of mental illness. The quality of our connectedness with our social connections also correlates with a lack of disability as we age. In the Emotional Capital framework, relationship skills are made up of three components:

  • Equality, which is our understanding that relationships work best when people are recognised and treated as equals.
  • Mutuality, which concerns our ability to look for ways we can help others achieve their objectives while they are engaged in a relationship with us. This is built on the conviction that people collaborate with each other and work well for each other when they can clearly see the wins or benefits for them.
  • Empowerment, which involves our capacity to ensure that people work best when they have a sense of ownership in the relationship by having the opportunity and freedom to contribute to it. 

4. Self-actualisation

Self-actualisation involves the understanding that the management of our emotional energy will ultimately determine the quality of our mental health. Finding our passion empowers us and inspires others around us. In the Emotional Capital framework, self-actualisation comes from two core components:

  • Work/life balance, which involves us striving for emotional balance by paying attention to the important areas of our lives, such as our relationships, health, career, finance and self-development. This conscious attention helps to ensure each area gets the attention it deserves.
  • Achievement drive, which is about our ability to respond to creative challenges by goal setting, working to a plan, and committing to actions. These actions generate a feeling of making progress and this in turn protects us from mood disorder and generates positive emotional energy.

The power of integrating these skills in a professional setting

Each of these four skills is essential to improved wellbeing, and each can be learned through practical Emotional Intelligence training. For workplaces who build EQ into their wellbeing programmes, these skills and behaviours become incorporated into teams over time, helping to generate remarkable morale, positivity, and mental toughness. They change the cultures of organisations.

For those organisations looking to move forward on this, we typically recommend using a seven-step process to integrate EQ successfully into wellbeing programmes.

  1. Engagement, to build interest and enthusiasm among your team. By taking the time to explain the value of EQ training, what it will do for them, and why it matters, you substantially increase the likelihood of building positive sentiment towards the training.
  2. Benchmarking, which allows everyone undertaking the training to understand their starting point and to initially identify the key areas on which they need to work.
  3. Goal-setting, which has been shown to improve performance dramatically in training programmes by boosting motivation and accountability from the start.
  4. Modeling the skills, which involves leaders demonstrating the core EQ competencies in their everyday actions in order to show to others – both consciously and subconsciously – what they can achieve. Skills modeling has been proven to accelerate learning.
  5. Practicing behaviours and getting feedback, which builds on the power of repetition and distributed practice to acquire and hone essential skills and behaviours.
  6. Reinforcing learnings, which uses follow-up support to ensure training is remembered long beyond the day of the learning.
  7. Measuring progress, so that all participants can feel positive about the progress they have made and can quantify the results of their work.

Put EQ at the heart of your workplace wellbeing programme

Academic research and real-world business results have consistently shown that Emotional Intelligence is critical to developing and maintaining workplace wellbeing. Furthermore, we have also identified the most effective method for integrating EQ training into professional wellbeing programmes to maximise benefits. Taken together, these findings have removed the roadblocks and paved the way for any organisation looking to identify and incorporate the most critical elements of success when launching a wellbeing initiative.

Contact us today to start devising an EQ training programme tailored to your needs.

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