A few weeks ago I spoke to the management team of a company in California. The topic was the role of EQ in the workplace. I shared research with the team that I have blogged about on several occasions already regarding how emotionally unsafe the workplace really is. They seemed surprised to learn that a bar rated higher as being emotionally safe than a place of work. A bar is a place people generally ‘let loose’ without worrying about too much and a workplace is filled with anxiety and fear of who is around you, what to say, how to say it, and being at your best behavior at all times. Given the context that this company is in an emerging market requiring a great deal of collaboration and innovation, it was seriously considering eliminating virtual work and having their employees come into their offices, just as Yahoo had done earlier this year.
One of the executives made the observation that since a place of work is inherently a place of fear where employees are generally guarded, that having them come back to this place for the purposes of innovation might actually be quite illogical and counterproductive. People are obviously emotionally safe in their home offices and are likely to have more ‘fearless’ conversations and input necessary for collaboration. The management team decided not to eliminate their work-from-home program and instead design more of a hybrid program where certain days of the week would be designated as ‘collaboration’ days where face-to-face design sessions would be held.
I take no credit for what I thought was a brilliant decision on their part. They should be applauded for considering the emotional state of their employees and for the task at hand (innovation) and designing a structure that met both requirements. I share this to ask you, as leaders, to have similar considerations when you are orchestrating change that requires your employees to be at their best.