For the past two years, learning leaders and their organizations have adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on how the workplace functions — shifting to satiate the need for more flexibility by adopting remote and hybrid work environments.

A recent Accenture study found that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid work model. However, another global study found that hybrid work is proving to be exhausting for employees when communication is inconsistent and when the promised work-life balance isn’t fulfilled. So where can leaders provide balance for their teams between working both in the office and remotely?

The good news: With supportive guidance, leaders can cultivate high emotional intelligence (EQ) to strengthen critical skills — like empathy, assertiveness and stress management — to cope with these common concerns brought on by the transition to remote and hybrid work.

Here are some ways learning leaders can solve challenges for a dispersed work environment and boost performance management with EQ coaching and training.

Offer Constructive Feedback

Consider the following scenario:

A high-level leader of operations at a health care company wants to know how to move up to c-suite. For three consecutive years, this person consistently received “exceeds expectations” on his performance reviews for both business and leadership performance — not a small feat considering he leads a team of 3,000 remote workers across the U.S.

Pre-pandemic, this leader regularly traveled for in-person meetings with team members to build relationships and assess employee engagement. During the pandemic, his strategy evolved to visiting via Zoom meetings. Because he demonstrates high empathy and interpersonal relationship skills, he effectively establishes relationships with his team, while still meeting corporate goals and objectives. In addition to his own performance reviews, his team members says that he is both warm and firm, and provides them with excellent direction, as well as a compelling vision.

On the other side of this equation, the same leader regularly asks his own boss for constructive feedback and receives none, other than being told that he is doing “fine.” This, in fact, is feedback, but it’s not personalized or useful. A Gallup study recently discovered that companies that provide detailed, constructive feedback had a 14.9% lower turnover rate than those that did not. In this example, the leader is seeking honest feedback so he can develop the leadership skills to grow the business and his career.

The solution to this problem is a simple one: All his boss needs to do is provide specific, honest feedback and a clear pathway to promotion. If his boss had the empathy and interpersonal relationship skills that this high-level operations leader had, he would know how to best coach and mentor him in a way that would inspire his confidence in the company.

Expressing Empathy

Here’s another example to consider:

In a large engineering company, a director is expected to be promoted to principal in about a year. Her 15-person team goes into the office two days per week and the rest of the time, they work remotely. Although the director is very personable, she struggles with practicing empathy when under stress and it magnifies when she isn’t able to communicate in person. This behavior catches the attention of the director’s boss who wants her to develop better stress management skills.

In response, the director’s boss hires an emotional intelligence coach to assist the director with engaging better with her team, coping with stress and preparing her for her promotion to principal engineer. When the EQ coach assesses the director, she can identify what other areas she might have scored low on, such as self-regard, impulse control and empathy – in addition to stress management.

By having a low aptitude in these EQ skills, the director can hinder the connectivity between her dispersed team. A Harvard Business Review study found that those who aren’t self-aware can in fact cut their team’s success in half. Luckily, EQ skills can be learned, and the EQ coach can work closely with employees and leadership to develop these particular skills.

Moving Forward

During these unprecedented times, skills gaps have widened substantially, especially in soft skills like EQ. What a lot of learning leaders are realizing is that a different set of skills are needed to manage work in a dispersed environment. Leaders need to practice skills like empathy and EQ to effectively lead their team and promote connectivity. And employees must learn skills in change management and resiliency to adequately adopt to a new work flow.

EQ coaching and training not only instills these much-needed skills, but evaluates the learner’s EQ level to identify areas of improvement. With the increasing adoption of remote and hybrid work, learning leaders must prepare themselves to manage their team’s performance with the right skills sets. By highlighting important EQ skills, workers can receive helpful feedback necessary to further their careers and move up the corporate ladder.