The importance of emotional intelligence and communication in a virtual world

By Hannah Rayhill | July 2, 2020

“I think you’re on mute.”

The frequent use of this now common phrase is one small example of changes the global pandemic has caused. The many workplace changes employees have faced also introduced new pressures on how to communicate effectively. It’s important to find ways to deconstruct those pressures in a positive, deliberate manner to help improve your virtual work environment.

Developing and demonstrating emotional intelligence can help with those efforts, which should also include developing more effective virtual relationships.

Emotional intelligence is the ability to acknowledge your own emotions and recognize the emotions of others and use that information to guide your behavior. The practice of emotional intelligence is difficult enough to perfect in “normal” situations when people work together in person. It is even tougher to assess the emotional status of our coworkers in a virtual environment.

But it can be done. It requires three things: self-awareness, empathy and the engagement of others.

In an office environment, self-awareness may look like stopping by a colleague’s desk to clarify a point you made earlier that you sensed may have caused confusion. In a virtual environment, this check-in could be a phone call or a quick instant message conveying the same information.

Empathy in an office environment might be expressed through conversations over coffee. In a virtual world, you can still have these moments of understanding and shared feelings, although they’ll have to be via calls or video. You can also show empathy by providing colleagues with extra time and flexibility if their responsibilities outside of work have intensified.

Finally, effective leadership and emotional intelligence is cultivated through how you engage with others and recognize their needs. The Partnership’s Public Service Leadership Model shows a foundational approach to engaging others and ensuring their professional and personal needs are met.

It’s important to think critically and thoroughly about how your current circumstances affect you and everyone around you. Practicing emotional intelligence can help you thrive through times that continue to strain many people emotionally, physically and mentally.

For more tips on working remotely, check out:


Hannah Rayhill