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News article27 July 2021European Labour Authority, Directorate-General for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion

Why soft skills and emotional intelligence are more important than ever

The post-COVID-19 world can be full of uncertainty and challenges. As a result, companies need emotionally intelligent workers with a range of soft skills to help them navigate through these difficult times.

Why soft skills and emotional intelligence are more important than ever

Soft skills are related to the way in which you interact with colleagues, solve problems, and manage your work, while emotional intelligence is the ability to understand and be aware of your emotions and those of others. Here, we examine some of these skills, and why they are more important now than ever.

Autonomy and responsibility

Remote work has brought about increased autonomy for employees, and this may remain a permanent feature of the labour market post-COVID-19. While in the long run increased remote work has the potential to improve productivity and a range of other economic and social indicators (e.g. wellbeing, gender, regional equality, housing, emissions), its overall impact carries risks, particularly in terms of innovation and employee satisfaction. Many workers report ‘hidden overtime’ brought about by blurred lines between their work and personal lives. To limit this, workers must be adept at self-management. They should be able to draw boundaries, maximise their productivity within working hours, and take responsibility where relevant, whilst also taking their allocated breaks and personal time off in order to avoid burnout.

Proactive communication and collaboration

Limited physical interactions within a shared workspace mean opportunities for peer learning are greatly reduced. As a result, employees must feel comfortable being proactive in seeking out new skills, knowledge and feedback.

In order for this to create minimal disruption and foster effective collaboration, workers must be considerate of the manner in which their colleagues like to be contacted, and develop a sense of ‘digital etiquette’. Do they like lengthy, detailed emails, for example, or do they prefer to talk on the phone? How often do they want to be updated during a task? Do they enjoy using video calls, or would they rather be contacted via instant messaging?

Remote work also requires new emphasis on ‘virtual body language’. In order to be effective when attending virtual meetings, workers should be aware of the manner in which they are presenting themselves, remaining professional and personable throughout. This includes maintaining eye contact through the camera, smiling, avoiding excessive fidgeting, muting their microphone when appropriate, and sitting in an upright, engaged position.

Emotional intelligence and empathy

The COVID-19 crisis has had an enormous impact on those who have lived through it. As a result, many people may be experiencing increased stress related to high workloads, financial strains, problems with their own health or that of a loved one, bereavement, and lack of childcare, among many other things. As a result, individuals that are able to show concern for other’s experiences, whilst also balancing responsibility for the quality of their work, are more valuable than ever.

Adaptability and motivation to upskill

To adapt to the post-COVID-19 market, companies are rethinking critical components of their supply chains. In order to respond to this, workers must be motivated to upskill to meet new requirements within their roles, and continue to focus on building a skillset which is relevant to the demands of the new market.

We hope this article offered you some useful insight into why soft skills and emotional intelligence are more important than ever.

If you’re interested in reading more about the world of work post-COVID-19, take a look at our Top 7 tips to reduce your back-to-office anxiety.

In partnership with EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal.


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