While Blue Monday (today) serves as a useful reminder to employers, says Laura Benton, they would be better off taking steps to help their people with mental health all through the year, using emotional intelligence.
The third Monday of every January (today) is Blue Monday, supposedly the year’s saddest as New Year’s resolutions fall by the wayside and mental health suffers amid the dark evenings and stress at work.
This year is no different as the pandemic continues to impact employees – from worries about job security and anxiety around personal health to concerns about older relatives, with mental health diagnoses skyrocketing.
So, while Blue Monday is as a useful reminder to employers to look at mental health, it does little to encourage putting in place long term strategies for a lasting impact. For that companies need to take into account how their people feel all year round, using emotional intelligence (EQ).
Invest in emotional intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to understand, process and manage emotions, both in within yourself and when it comes to the emotional management of others. The concept has five key tenets – self-awareness, emotional regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills.
Consciously using these skills drastically impacts how effectively a business, and its managers, work with its people. With the pandemic completely overturning life as we know it, this has never been more important. Anyone can read up on emotional intelligence, but training these skills and translating them into day-to-day business use is a whole other story.
Emotionally intelligent leaders foster loyalty because they treat their people as individuals; they understand them on a much deeper level, they are aware of their own development areas, and they never let their own emotions get the better of them. When employees feel like their needs are an important part of the business’ decision-making process, they feel valued, cared for and appreciated,
That is not to say that firms need to shy away from making hard decisions. I don’t think any business in the last two years has been immune to having to make changes. Even in the “easier times”, a s business will still need to make tough decisions. Having EQ as a business isn’t about shying away from this, it’s about factoring in how people feel when making the decisions and how you actually deliver any change.
Empathy is an undervalued resource
One of the core parts of EQ is empathy, which is the ability to see the world from someone else’s eyes. This means that news can be delivered to people in a way that is tailored to them as individuals, taking into account how they see and feel about things as well as how decisions relate to them personally.
In the midst of ‘The Great Resignation’, it’s vital that employers champion this approach. According to the ONS, 791,000 people moved jobs between April and June 2021, roughly 2% of the workforce. That represents the second highest rate for more than a decade. If employers can push back against this tide by promoting greater emotional intelligence in the workplace, it will be hugely worthwhile –according to a study published by Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, it will make employees up to 13% more productive. For Reassured, we know that the basis of EQ is that people act based on how they feel – how a business’ people feel about it as an employer will be the difference between whether they stay or go.
Without a doubt, loyalty and happiness breed a more stable, productive workforce that is likely to weather uncertainty more effectively.
Proper emotional intelligence can deliver all of these benefits and more, so putting it to the test can only be a good thing both for morale and profitability. Blue Monday is a good reminder for all businesses to put their staff’s mental wellbeing first, but employers should be careful to show they care all year round if they really want to feel the benefits.
Laura Benton is COO of Reassured. She is an expert in emotional intelligence and regularly coaches others on the subject.