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Leading with Emotional Intelligence in Today’s Remote/Hybrid Working World

At the start of the pandemic, when work-from-home mandates created a jarring change to the way we worked together, business interactions suddenly felt less personal. Employees struggled with illness, anxiety, increased workload pressure, isolation, uncertainty and personal loss in an environment that often felt surreal. Meanwhile, employers worried about how to manage it all, from preserving their company culture and productivity to maintaining the wellbeing of both their employees and their organizations. Many of them realized that emotional intelligence (commonly referred to as EQ) would need to be a crucial consideration when guiding business management, peer interaction and employee support strategies – and it helped employees and companies alike through that unpredictable and challenging period.

As the discussion about EQ has evolved, should companies continue to make it a priority? In short, the answer is, “Yes.” Workplaces that mindfully incorporate EQ are more flexible, collaborative and self-aware, which leads to stronger teamwork, innovation and productivity. They also create an environment where employees, clients and business partners feel valued and engaged. As the pandemic becomes a distant memory, it could be all too easy to revert to a more impersonal mindset in our business interactions and lose these significant benefits.

In this blog, we’ll discuss why the principles of EQ – purposeful thought, careful communication, mindfulness, empathy and authentic support – should not only be business considerations now, but ongoing drivers of organizational planning, particularly when it comes to talent mobility.

EQ in an age of empowerment

Graebel declared 2022 to be The Year of Empowerment, a time for mobility professionals to leverage lessons learned as they navigate a continually challenging market and elevate the employee experience along the way. This empowerment-focused EQ remains a powerful post-pandemic strategy to guide a company’s employee mobility program and related activity. Mobility teams and employees on mobile assignments are still facing challenges that have carried over from the pandemic and new ones are expected to surface in 2023 and beyond. Each of these challenges can be an opportunity for growth as teams employ general EQ principles to mobility approaches and planning.

Four areas of EQ empowerment for today’s employee mobility programs

The general EQ principles identified above – purposeful thought, careful communication, mindfulness, empathy and authentic support – are timeless. Implementation strategies, however, should reflect current situations, specifically today’s employee-centric, remote/hybrid working environment as described in a recent Forbes article about the future of work.

With that in mind, here are four key challenges in today’s mobile workplace that call for continued application of those EQ principles:

1. Retain employees to provide advancement opportunities

Mobile assignments are often linked to future advancement within large organizations. It’s not surprising they’re also associated with employee retention. In Graebel’s Annual State of Mobility 2022 Report, we surveyed 1,500 knowledge workers who left their positions between 2020 and 2022, during the Great Resignation. Based on this data, there’s little doubt companies could have retained some of these high-performing employees if they had offered them the right career-enhancing mobile assignments. Key statistics from the report show that:

  • Sixty-seven percent of the knowledge workers who responded to our survey said they would have been more likely to stay with their previous employer if they had the opportunity to retain their role but relocate to a different country
  • Slightly more (70%) cited that they may have stayed with their previous company if offered the same role in a different region of their home country – this includes 81% of the APAC-based employees who responded

Whenever possible, companies should consider looking for opportunities to prepare future leaders by giving qualified employees the valuable perspective that comes from a remote assignment.

EQ in this area requires an application of the principle of authentic support: viewing each employee as unique and offering avenues toward success and professional fulfillment, as appropriate.

2. Make advancement opportunities equitable

Companies that utilize mobile assignments to prepare employees for long-term service won’t get the full benefit (e.g., retention, an enhanced leadership talent pool, increased innovation and productivity) unless they offer these opportunities to all eligible employees, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age, disabilities and other factors. With this in mind, companies should always evaluate their mobile assignment programs in the context of EQ and the value of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). Even the most mindful companies can find significant opportunities for growth when they do.

In the State of Mobility Report 2022 survey referenced above, 83% of the respondents who identified as women were open to relocation for their career, but only 59% of them trusted their employer to provide personal support during a relocation. In contrast, 79% of the respondents who identified as men were open to relocation and 71% trusted their employer to provide personal support.

EQ in this area requires applying the principles of mindfulness, purposeful thought and careful communication to employee interaction. It calls for looking at the impact of current policies and practices, including those related to DEI, and then implementing those practices when offering mobile assignments.

3. Support ongoing remote work

In the earliest days of the pandemic, a company’s support for work-from-home arrangements consisted primarily of logistical assistance as they closed offices and scrambled to implement IT systems that could sustain ongoing work processes. Over time, the support expanded to address the mental and emotional distress these work arrangements were causing many isolated employees. Leading with an EQ mindset became more important than ever, as described in our 2021 blog on EQ.

Today, many employees are continuing to work from home full time or on a hybrid basis. The level of remote worker isolation is far less as pandemic restrictions are removed and the use of teleconferencing and other tools have become second nature. Still, work-from-home challenges remain.

When remote employees aren’t fully integrated into day-to-day operations, they can feel like they’re operating in a gray area, wondering, for example, if their remote status is resented by team members or if their status will limit future growth opportunities. Companies can help overcome these uncertainties by clearly defining remote work policies related to eligibility, geographic limits and other factors. These policies can help “legitimize” authorized remote work in the eyes of employees across the company.

Remote employees may also feel disconnected and at a disadvantage given their limited exposure to people in the company outside of their immediate team. They also can feel compelled to work beyond normal business hours because work is so convenient, leading to burnout.

EQ in this area requires an application of the principles of empathy and careful communication. It calls for understanding how these concerns can impact an employee and their performance. This paves the way for implementing and maintaining communication channels that ensure remote employees feel like full members of the team. As we’ve described in a previous blog, mobility teams are well-suited to this type of policy planning for remote work. For years, they’ve supported and facilitated the contribution of mobile employees who are far removed from company headquarters and can, therefore, often lead the charge in EQ-empowered discussions.

4. Support relocating employees and those on assignment

Mobile employees relocating to, and working in, new environments continue to face unique demands. International assignments can be especially challenging at this time. Economic uncertainty, geopolitical conflicts, lingering pandemic restrictions, visa and immigration complexities, supply chain bottlenecks and shipping backlogs not only lead to rising mobility costs for the employer, but they can also add to uncertainty, vulnerability and stress levels for the mobile employee.

Failed assignments – due to insufficient EQ support for employees who are confronting things like shipment delays and travel restrictions – can impose significant costs for an organization. A “mindful mobility” calculation considers the costs of specific mobility program elements alongside the benefits that accrue to the organization from an exceptional mobile employee experience. When these are in balance, a company can achieve its goals, retain key talent and improve their bottom line in the long run.

EQ in this area requires an application of the principles of empathy, careful communication and authentic support. It calls for encouraging mobility teams and relocation management companies to operate according to EQ standards, such as Graebel’s own brand principles of understanding clearly and caring deeply. Providing exceptional mobile employee experiences is one of Graebel’s primary goals and it’s how we fulfill our commitment to people-first mobility.

EQ and the future of work

Companies are internalizing many lessons from the pandemic. One important takeaway is the need to integrate EQ into all aspects of the organization instead of treating it as an afterthought following a crisis or emergency. It’s essential that mobility managers and HR leaders alike continuously review the environments they and their employees are operating in and adjust their EQ support in ways that are most effective, authentic and meaningful for them. Doing this doesn’t just support employees, it also contributes to a positive company culture, organizational productivity and an empowered and engaged workforce.


To learn more about the benefits of EQ and how it can help your company achieve its mobility program vision, visit our website or contact one of our experts, who can help map out a plan to improve employee engagement and prepare a new generation of leaders.