Many are facing the challenge of maintaining a positive work culture in the context of our part-virtual/part-physical, increasingly distributed workplaces of today, through the use of an employee engagement platform of some kind. This calls for us to extend our Emotional Intelligence beyond the realms of the individual to the ‘collective’ at times, if we are to properly understand current employee experience.
While your workforce is made up of an array of individual employees each with their own talents, when it comes to thinking about their emotions, there is clear benefit to be gained from considering them as a collective. If we combine this with an awareness of the phenomenon that is Emotional Contagion, we can arm ourselves with some actionable understanding about how best to meet our happy workforce challenge.
What DO You Want Your Employees To ‘Catch’?
You know how you can be in a room (or leave one) and realize you have somehow ‘caught’ the prevailing mood or atmosphere? What’s happening is called Emotional Contagion. The phrase refers to how humans synchronize emotions, consciously or unconsciously, & then converge in a shared feeling state. Psychologists borrow the term ‘contagion’ from biology and the language of infectious diseases, which we have become all too familiar with through the Covid-19 pandemic.
When a person unconsciously mirrors someone else’s expression of emotion, what ever the emotion and how ever it is expressed, they themselves are infused with a similar feeling, which leads to emotional convergence.
Now imagine this emotionally contagious ‘room’ is your entire workforce, or a specific team or department, coming together in either a real in-person or virtual on-line environment, and ask yourself what kind of emotions you want to have converging there!
Volumes of research reveal that emotions, whether they are positive or negative, have a clear ripple effect among groups of people. Moreover, Harvard Business Review’s recent article The Contagion We Can Control emphatically points out: “…while feelings are more contagious in person, they can still be transmitted online – and by email, phone, or any other ongoing remote interaction with other people.”
So many places where our employees gather these days are ‘virtual’, yet how much Emotional Intelligence is being applied here? How much thought is anyone giving to the mood and atmosphere being created and the emotional transmission that is happening constantly below the surface, in their employee engagement platform or similar virtual meeting places?
Why Does This Matter?
The field of Positive Psychology, whose focus is the scientific study of what leads to flourishing at the individual level and beyond, and in all environments including at work, makes much of the experiencing of positive emotions. Said to be one of the two key components of the elusive notion, the extent to which we experience positive emotions has been shown to be a powerful determinant of our overall level of Happiness.
Furthermore, people who have plenty of positive emotions in their everyday lives are not just happier. They also tend to be healthier, learn better, and get along well with others. This sounds exactly like a recipe for top employee wellness – who wouldn’t want all of this rippling through their workforce! But what do the experts have to say about exactly how the experiencing of positive emotions are beneficial at work? Here come three Professors to tell us…
Barb Fredrickson, Professor in the department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is among the most highly cited scholars in Psychology. From her extensive research the four main benefits of experiencing positive emotions are :
– Reduced Stress and Boosted Well-Being
– Stronger Resilience
– Increased Healthy Choices
– Increased Performance and Engagement… this last area in particular must attract our attention!
Many studies have been conducted in the last 15+ years exploring the link between employees’ emotional experiences at work and their attitudes and motivations toward their jobs and their employers. Researchers who systematically reviewed over 200 studies from these many, found consistent and strong evidence that employees who reported experiencing more positive emotions had higher job satisfaction and greater commitment to their organizations; in other words greater all round ‘engagement’.
One of Frederickson’s colleagues, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of California, Riverside, one of the first to get involved in this area of research stated in an interview with CGTN America :
“We already know that happier employees are more productive, we know that happier people are more creative, they make more money, they are better negotiators, they’re better leaders. So I think it’s good for companies to make sure their employees are happy, not just because it’s good for the employees but it’s good for their bottom line as well”
Professor Raj Raghunathan of Coombs Business School at University of Texas not only agrees with her statement but has quantified just how good! Here are the numbers for the win/win he has identified through his own studies and measures : organizations with happier employees are 9% more profitable than organizations with unhappy employees AND the happiest 20% of people earn 32% more than the least happy 20%.
He explains such findings & much more in his Happier Employees and Return on Investment Course (HEROIC) available on the EdX learning platform which opens with this proposition : ‘Happiness doesn’t just feel good; it’s also useful to be happy. Happier employees are healthier, so they take less sick leave. Happier employees are more collegial, so they perform better in teams. Happier employees are also more creative and objective, so they make better decisions. Put all this together, and it’s no surprise that happier people earn more and organizations with happier employees are more profitable’.
Whether the exact numbers come from Prof Raj’s studies or from others (and not surprisingly, there are many on the subject), these connections are clear, and we therefore have before us a powerful opportunity!
How To Leverage Positive Emotions For Your Workforce
The task for managers is to make sure the Emotional Contagion that is happening in both your real and virtual employee environments is working in your favor and is focused on building employee happiness. Remember that Emotional Contagion can gain momentum for good or for bad, and that ripple effects ripple fast! And this is especially true in all of the virtual environments we increasingly find ourselves in. Here are some key ways you can positively influence and actively manage the prevailing mood among your employees, wherever they are :
- Your Employees Want To Have Fun
Make it ok to raise a smile, share a laugh, even be a bit silly (within reason) in your work community. Grow your awareness of The Importance of Fun At Work and regularly implement some! Understanding that their work community is about more than just work is highly engaging for employees. It also creates a valuable ‘stickiness’ which can translate into better ENPS (Employee Net Promoter Score) & Retention.
- Your Employees Like To Share And Show They Care
Regularly provide opportunities to share what is good and heart-warming either through words, whether that is written or spoken story-telling, or perhaps even more powerfully, through pictures. Add some easy ways for your employees to show they connect & they care into the mix. (It’s what the ‘like’ & ‘love’ clickable icons are for in many of our online environments!) Human moments that generate positive emotions and that are shared also do a great job to build connection & strengthen bonds between workmates.
- Give Your Employees New Ways To Win
Create new ways to ‘win’ & ‘achieve’ & celebrate ‘success’ by broadening the scope of these definitions beyond your important work targets/indicators also into the realms outlined above. Browse here to explore a vast range of pre-made content items that can help you achieve this. Healthy competition is… healthy! High-points feel good & are important for all of us to experience often. It is smart to engineer these opportunities into your employees’ experience at work, not as an occasional occurrence but on a regular daily basis, and even if they’re working from home.
How To Make This Easy
OK, are you thinking all of the above ‘how to’s’ sound nearly impossible now that most workforces are dispersed more than they ever have been before? Not at all. Just think about the ‘technology’ you have available & just how fast & just how easily ideas & sentiments (& yes, emotions too) get transmitted these days. Your employees already have the hardware so all you need is the right employee engagement platform & the right expertise to help you develop your own emotionally intelligent positive-emotions-generating strategy!
The experts at Eloops are ready & waiting to assist you with everything you need.
MS-Teams is partnering with Eloops to offer all of their customers seamless integration with a unique offering to enhance the work experience of their many thousands of employees.