The future of remote work will be driven by Digital Emotional Intelligence

Photo by Kevin Bhagat on Unsplash

It’s all going very fast. Are we ready?

The COVID-19 epidemic, in the last three months, has radically accelerated the adoption and usage of digital in the workplace in contrast to the last two decades. The capability was always present, but it took a pandemic to give corporations a final nudge. For the companies, this is a blessing in disguise as they start to discover the cost efficiencies of remote working. Therefore this trend of working remotely is expected to grow up to 73%, following the suit of companies such as Facebook, Twitter, and others who have given the choice of working indefinitely to their employees. But what does all this mean for the organizations worldwide? Are we ready to embrace this force of digitalization and what do we need to be successful in this era?

Remote working culture on the rise

More than 70% of the world population works remotely at least once a week. Without having a single office building corporations such as Citrix, Groove, InVision, etc have been operating successfully in the industry. Not having to pay office and utility bills to add up quickly, which accounts for approximately one-third of the operating expenses for organizations. Therefore the efficiency of remote working is bound to be a big motivator for companies to shut their physical offices and invest more and more on their digital presence. A variety of software for video conferencing and managing digital teams have already demonstrated their worth for the upcoming scenario. They make life easier for both parties and maintain the same or at times even higher level of efficiency as in-person teams.

However there are two sides to every coin, where on one side remote working seems convenient for the employees by reducing their travel times and improving flexibility and cost efficiency for the organizations, this also leads to a higher probability of burnouts. Some of the reasons for this is reduced work-life balance because the distinction between work and home becomes thinner. It makes it difficult for them to unplug and relax. Besides, they are also likely to fall into the isolation trap. We as human beings crave physical interaction and remote working deprives us of this which makes us easy targets for depression and other mental health issues. There is also an increased number of distractions while working at home as children, pets, spouses, etc so the attention span and productive periods narrow down even further.

The geographical location of less importance while hiring

A report by Randstad found that 76% of the recruiters say that the right employee for them could be falling under any category, work arrangement, and can be based anywhere in the world. Therefore it becomes apparent that geographical locations play a less vital role in attracting the talent because people are now capable of working from there home in their pajamas or somewhere on the beach with their laptops out. This is deducted from the fact that not everyone can work best in a restricted space such as an office. The report also states that the most important benefit that the employees(especially the Gen Z) seek from their employer is the flexibility to work from anywhere that suits them. So remote is here to stay, and locations and culture become less relevant. But what is the new black in making people successful? Talent Data Labs data suggests we should start looking into Emotional Intelligence (EI).

What is EI?

In 1995 the concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI) received quite a lot of attention around the world due to the publication of Goleman’s book: Emotional Intelligence: Why it can matter more than IQ. Since then a lot of research has been conducted in organizational psychology regarding the impacts of EI on job performance. By definition, “Emotional intelligence is the ability to control emotions of oneself and others, to distinguish them from each other and to apply this information to guide one’s own thinking and action” Salovey 1990.

Influence of EI on job performance

Job performance can be defined as how efficient a person is using influence opportunities, that is if he/she can manage the work effectively and efficiently or not. Emotions are said to affect the way people think and their judgment. Emotional intelligence gives a person the ability to read and understand these emotions of self and others at the workplace as well as regulate them. Experts believe that this ability is a crucial factor in determining the professional and personal success of an individual. The World Economic Forum lists EQ as top workplace skill for 2020. Unlike other technical and soft skills, Emotional intelligence is something innate, however, if worked upon this too can be built in an individual.

How does it translate for the organization?

From our findings, emotionally intelligent employees report a higher rate of job satisfaction (70% or higher) than their counterparts. They are overall more satisfied with the people around (including superiors and colleagues) and possess fewer chances of leaving the organization. This reduces the churn rates for organizations and drives higher productivity and efficiency in operations. These individuals are also good decision-makers and contribute in tapping opportunities for the companies. Therefore they bring monetary and operational benefits to the firm they work at.

So why should you hire Emotionally Intelligent employees?

EQ is worth 30% of the salary costs

The US department of labor estimates that the cost of hiring a bad employee (that would be someone with lower EQ in this context) to the company is equal to 30% of the individual’s first year earning potential. Therefore we see companies such as Google moving away from traditional hiring matrices such as university or grades and rather emphasizing Emotional Intelligence. Someone who is book smart may not necessarily be emotionally intelligent and therefore would have a harder time adjusting to the workplace and people around. The dynamic business environment involves lots of uncertainty and is quite fast-paced which may at times lead to stress and frustration. It is in such a scenario that an emotionally intelligent employee would know how to acknowledge and regulate his/her emotions that translate into better choices and behavior. They are unlike the “Yes” People who have a hard time saying “No”. This is what contributes to stress and can be detrimental to the organization. Emotionally Intelligent people don’t say yes unless they feel like.

We have noticed that most of the high EI employees exist in NGO’s and NPO’s. But in the last few years, we have seen that other industries have begun to attract such talent as well. Global and multinational employers demand such candidates as well with approximately 60% of their workforce being very or extremely emotionally intelligent.

Effective Leadership

Daniel Goleman’s statement in his 1998 Harvard Business Review article about the importance of emotional intelligence (EI) when it comes to leadership: The most effective leaders are all alike in one crucial way: they all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence….Without it, a person can have the best training in the world, an incisive, analytical mind, and an endless supply of smart ideas, but he still won’t make a great leader”

When the leaders are emotionally intelligent they foster a safe environment where they use emotions(of self and others) to drive the organization forward. Such leaders are capable of forging ahead with the goals of the company rather than taking things personally or on their ego. These interpersonal conflicts are what causes delays and hindrances in the performance of an organization. An emotionally intelligent leader can look above such conflicts and drive the desired change needed to succeed collectively.

A better predictor of success than IQ

Maya Angelou once said, “ People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This is true in business environments as well because consumers buy emotions and not the product. People with high IQ are mostly so afraid of failure and setbacks that they never take risks and prefer to stay in the comfort zones, however, this is quite the opposite for emotionally intelligent people, they are more experimental, they stumble, they fall and they get back up. This is what makes them more prone to success than their counterparts.

What does it mean for your remote and digital workplace of the future?

With our jobs and workplaces increasingly becoming digital and more technology-driven, we need leaders who not only have EQ but Digital Emotional Intelligence(DEQ). If EQ is the skill of understanding and being able to empathize with others then DEQ is the ability to apply the same in an increasingly digital business environment. Although skills such as coding and analytics are higher with proportion to this trend, surveys have shown that employers tend to hire candidates who have higher EQ.

We observe a trend in highly digital organizations laying more emphasis on EI while looking for a suitable candidate for their teams. Companies with more than 60% digitization demand the highest level of EI in their employees. Hence hiring an EI candidate is like the right investment for your firm considering future perspectives.

Candidates possessing DEQ would have the capability of handling the stress of working in remote teams using increasingly sophisticated digital platforms. They would be more receptive to the needs and pain points of their teams which shall be spread across different geographical locations. All this cumulates into better decision making and taking on new opportunities which are critical elements of an organization’s success.

Start gathering EI data and measurements because you’ll need it to stay competitive:

The remote and digital workplaces of the future are closer than we think. The technology has already marked its presence in this arena. What is left for organizations is to tap into the right talent (i.e emotionally intelligent workforce) to emerge successful in the future. To be competitive you already need to start investing in data analysis and recruiting processes that tap into the EI levels of candidates so that you find the best possible fit for your organization. This would be a necessity rather than an additional requirement for the near future. The better the hiring process the better the future for your company and the more data you can analyze later.

Gaurry Sharma

If you need some help getting your organization experimenting with different tools and processes feel free to talk to me by writing at