· Features

How to use emotional intelligence to combat stress

We all know that work-related stress is expensive. It’s also disruptive and usually inconvenient, and it can strike anyone at any time. Tackling stress and psychosocial risks is often viewed as too costly for many companies, but the reality is that it costs more to ignore it.

Stress affects performance and leads to absence from work – and it is on the increase. If prolonged, it can result in serious health problems, such as cardiovascular or musculoskeletal diseases. All this comes at a cost. The main costs for individuals relate to health impairment, lower income and reduced quality of life.

For organisations the effects include costs related to absenteeism, presenteeism, reduced productivity or high staff turnover. The healthcare costs and poorer business outcomes created by unhealthy stress ultimately affects not only the company, but national economies and society in general. So are we burying our heads in the sand, and what is the solution? 

A key part of the answer is to include emotional intelligence (EI) profiling in overall health screening, as a total package of wellness. EI is not new in HR, but it is often misunderstood or viewed as a soft skill. Conducted in the right way by skilled specialists, EI acts as a gateway to individual employee personal and interpersonal awareness.

In short, it is the most effective insight into how an individual is dealing with the stresses and challenges of everyday life at work. It offers HR management a comprehensive outline to help provide staff members with strategies for tackling stress, even before it becomes a problem. It has the added value of being measurable and an excellent way to optimise individual performance. 

Forward-thinking companies and executives are now seeing the value in approaching fitness in the same way as professional athletes – with training, support, focus, and a 360 degree view of factors affecting performance and wellbeing. EI has sometimes been overlooked as an emotional health indicator but, supported by coaching, it acts in the same way as a general fitness profile and exercise programme. It is designed to promote self-awareness and provide a framework to build personal resilience, stamina, and self-esteem. Combining emotional and physical fitness delivers a much more comprehensive and valuable psychological health check. 

Creating happier individuals who contribute to high-performing teams should be the objective of every business. The corporate world can be as competitive as any professional sport, therefore contenders in the workplace will increasingly need to be trained and prepared like athletes – treating every person as an individual and really understanding their unique tolerances and intolerances. This investment today can help reduce burn-out, staff churn and internal conflict tomorrow.  

Most people do some sort of physical exercise, and personal fitness programmes are often supported and incentivised by employers (for very logical reasons). Our psychological and emotional wellbeing is no less important, and top athletes take this aspect as seriously as their physical training. So why shouldn’t we all?

Jon Treanor is a former business leader, CEO and Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year finalist. He is now a professional Mindful Mentor and business strategist working with corporations and individuals.