In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to upend every aspect of our lives, resilience and emotional intelligence are emerging as must-haves for survival. While previously considered personality traits that leaders or employees either had or didn’t, a growing body of research shows that the set of skills and behaviors associated with resilience and EQ can be learned and developed. That’s good news, because companies are going to need them in spades.

Chad Parodi, CEO of XMI, recently wrote in the Nashville Business Journal about the role resilience should play in return-to-work plans.

“The office your employees left in March is guaranteed to look different when they return,” Parodi wrote.

Morning temperature checks will replace conversation around the communal coffee pot. Social distancing guidelines could force employees into workspaces once occupied by laid-off coworkers. The continued threat of COVID-19 will keep anxiety levels high.

“The natural reaction to this compounding of stress and disruption is an unhelpful combination of anger, conflict, irritability and poor productivity,” he wrote. “That’s definitely not what your business needs to recover right now.”

Enter resilience, which is the ability to bounce back after a setback. Add in emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and cooperate with others. Together, they can help you and your employees recover from setbacks, adapt to a new way of doing things, and keep going when new challenges arise.

Of course, employees can’t be ordered to have more resilience or increase their EQs. That strategy will most certainly backfire. These skills must be fostered. But, how? Here are three ideas to get you started.

1. Prioritize boosting these skills.

It’s easy to read an article and agree with what it says, and then hope it sticks. The problem with that approach is that it definitely won’t stick. To actually foster resilience and EQ among your staff, you must prioritize it. Consider adding it as a strategic goal, Parodi says. That way, you can measure your company’s progress and put resources toward it. Then, expect to provide regular, consistent exposure to these concepts in a variety of ways, such as in company-wide communications and through employee training opportunities.

2. Practice—and encourage—meditation.

One of the tenets of EQ is that words and actions matter—and it’s hard to take them back. Instead of lashing out or regretting an irrational response, slow down, take a time out and be mindful. Research also shows that mindfulness breeds resilience.

Meditation is a practice that is growing in popularity among business leaders and employees. In fact, Daniel Goleman, the psychologist who popularized the link between EQ and leadership success, says his interest in the topic stemmed from his studies in meditation.

“Meditation alone will not make you excel in these skill sets, but it can help,” he writes in How Meditation Fuels Emotional Intelligence for Key Step Media. “To become adept at the competencies, get a strong foundation by first learning to become aware, to focus, to interact with others in a constructive and meaningful way. These abilities are exactly what meditation helps to cultivate.”

3. Instill a sense of belonging.

This involves helping employees feel appreciated for their unique contributions, fostering a sense of connection to their coworkers, and feeling supported in the development of their career. All of these can become more difficult when employees are working remotely and companies are navigating crises—but that doesn’t mean you can drop the ball.

A recent BetterUp study found that if employees feel like they belong, companies see such bottom-line benefits as a 56 percent increase in overall job performance, a 50 percent drop in turnover risk, and a whopping 75 percent reduction in sick days. This sense of belonging also leads to employees feeling aligned with the purpose and values of the organization.

At XMI, we’re no strangers to our core values. They’re plastered on our walls and they’re how we open every staff meeting. When our office closed seemingly overnight and we all headed to our respective home offices, we didn’t abandon these core truths—we doubled-down on them.

“Given so many uncertainties in the world right now and in your employees’ lives, your company’s core values can serve as that unwavering guidepost,” Parodi says. “You might not know what tomorrow will bring, but you do know that you have those values.”

By keeping your employees in the loop and helping them feel connected and supported, they can more easily practice being resilient and emotionally intelligent.

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