How to Successfully Deal With the Emotion in Your Virtual Workspace
Coping strategies for when work colleagues and/or customers are challenging your emotions virtually.
Lately, it’s common to hear people talking about how exhausted they are at the end of the day from dealing with the emotion of customers or co-workers in the workspace.
The friend I spoke with earlier this week was sharing he couldn’t believe how wiped out he was at the end of each day. His co-workers were experiencing it as well, and this is unusual within their work environment. His industry is challenged with material shortages, and they’re struggling to keep up with customer demand.
With many of his long-term clients struggling to keep their businesses running at this point, the emotional tone is exceptionally high.
After ten hours of highly charged client calls, he’s struggling to find ways to recover from emotional burnout and keep his energy up so that he has some left for his wife and kids.
As the pandemic presses on, emotions are more on the surface. Short fuses are becoming more common and less predictable. If you’re working onsite customer service, this is tricky to navigate and maintain good client relationships. For those of us working from home, the emotional tone comes through our headsets all day long.
It’s challenging. Each is trying to manage our own emotions within our set of circumstances and likely low on energy. We go onto a meeting call or phone call with a client who’s in a heightened emotional space. They could be struggling to keep their business afloat, or they’ve been affected directly by covid in some way. Maybe they’re just not mentally coping well with more than a year of prolonged restriction.
There are many combinations to what’s creating stress and emotion for people right now.
Coping with emotional energy virtually
If this is a challenge you’re facing right now, here’s what you can do to help mitigate the effects of this throughout your day.
The most important thing when dealing with emotional people is recognizing our reactions in it.
Whether we are on a Zoom call, phone call, or chatting through an app, we continually pick up the emotional energy behind the dialogue. This hits our system viscerally.
It’s important to recognize and monitor what our senses are picking up because our system responds to that energy on some level, whether we are conscious of it or not.
Signs of emotional undertone
- It can be obvious for us at times; we start to feel nervous or anxious when someone is becoming volatile or has high tension or stress in their tone.
- We can feel sadness, concern, or empathy as we sense the deep struggle someone is experiencing.
- We may pick up a blocking response or feel an emotional charge in our system.
These are common physiological signals that there’s more coming at us through someone’s tone of voice than just the actual message content. (or through both tone and body language when we are physically in the same environment, in this article, we’ll focus on virtual)
Once we become aware of this:
- Notice our reaction and tone. When we control our tone, that can help calm or neutralize the individual. It doesn’t always work, so don’t worry if that’s the case. Continue with your neutral tone for the remainder of the call. This helps ensure that we aren’t contributing to the agitation. It’s equally important to be aware of our emotional tone.
- Recognize that we are (likely) not the cause of the emotion or agitation.
- Breathe. The breath is one of the best ways to help ourselves in this. Become aware of your breath and intentionally take longer breaths through your nose, pulling your breath in with your belly. It helps calm our nervous system and lets the energy keep moving, so we don’t engage or absorb the emotional charge.
- Continue to release that energy and make it through the call. To help minimize the tone, try turning down the volume or moving the earpieces slightly back off your ears when wearing a headset to help dampen what’s coming through. Or switch to a speaker if that’s an option.
- When we continue to have a strong reaction to the emotional tone, it’s best to leave. Find a way to wrap up the conversation or leave the meeting.
- Take a break for 15 or 30 minutes after the call. If possible, make a habit of blocking a minimum of 30 minutes between calls right now. Space is essential for rejuvenation. There must be space between meetings for self-preservation and to give ourselves time to let go of the call — emotionally, physically, and mentally. Take an energy break.
Often, we can’t predict when we might be in a meeting or conversation that is highly charged emotionally. Scheduling space before or after meetings is an effective way to stay out of overload.
Suppose it’s not possible and calls are back to back. In that case, we need to make sure and take the breaks we do have to recharge and commit to regularly scheduling rejuvenation activities.
After the call
Get up from your workstation. Take the headset off, walk around the house. If possible, go outside. Take a minute to sit and breathe. Notice the inhale and exhale. Begin to release what just happened in the meeting by becoming fully present. Notice the surroundings in detail by focussing on the immediate surroundings, smells, sounds.
Leverage prime productivity times. If our best time for creativity and producing focus for work is in the morning, don’t plan any meetings during that time. Book that time each morning to allow productivity and creativity to flow. This gives us a mental recharge and prepares us for a potentially charged environment when we hit the phones or the Zoom calls.
Journal. For those of us who process how we feel mentally — take a break, and write out the feelings and experiences that came up during the call. This can help release the energy and move past unproductive thinking patterns.
Call a friend and talk it out. Some of us process better when we talk it out with someone.
Go outside. Nature is one of the easiest and quickest ways to ground and rebalance and helps us process stress in a different way than anything else.
Exercise. Walking, stretching, or yoga — something on the low impact side. Be aware that using a high-impact exercise to destress, like running or HIIT, also produces stress in our body. Our system doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative stress; it can tax us more than we think.
Ask for help. If you are struggling even after trying to rebalance and re-energize yourself, seek professional help. These are extraordinary times with considerable challenges; reaching out for medical or psychological assistance can help us cope and manage wellness.
We can’t control the emotion of others within our workspace, including clients and co-workers. We can maintain our resilience by giving ourselves space and the activities needed to process our experiences regularly.
When we practice monitoring and understanding what gives us energy and what takes our energy, we can intentionally leverage those that provide us with energy to rebalance through each day.
Mindset + Leadership Coach | Writer | Speaker | All things transformation is my space!