The past year of social distancing and remote working has turned our ideas of what the workplace should be on its head. The opportunities for managers and co-workers to pause from the tasks of the work day and take a moment to connect are few and far between. Trying to gage how well an employee is dealing with stress at work and at home over Zoom and Slack is nearly impossible.

Listen to “Empathy: the Net Emotional Index – Feelings Matter Episode 5” on Spreaker.

There is a need for psychologically safe ways to ask for and get emotional feedback in the workplace. Inspired by the Net Promoter Score introduced in 2003, Mindful Appy CEO, Tina Schweiger, has developed a way to track the emotional state of a group of people with the Net Emotional Index.

Semantically, the term Net Emotional Index (NEI) is designed to both imply and communicate directly that there is some sort of numerical calculation going on with emotions. Specifically, 

  • NET: the remaining value after accounting for a specific, commonly understood deduction

  • EMOTIONAL: Referring to the biological states associated with all of the nerve systems brought on by neurophysiological changes variously associated with thoughts, feelings, behavioral responses, and a degree of pleasure or displeasure.

  • INDEX: From Wikipedia; an index is a statistical measure of change in a representative group of individual data points

So to use plain language, the NEI is a single number that represents the remaining value of calculated positive feelings, after removing the total value of negative feelings in a given moment of time within a given group of individuals. 

Calculating and Interpreting the NEI

The Net Emotional Index (NEI) is a single number between -100 and +100 that tells you how happy – or unhappy – your people truly are. A score between -100 and 0 generally means that at that moment the mood is generally more negative than positive in sentiment. The overall mood is negative. A score between 1 and 100 is generally positive, the affect, the way people feel is generally more positive than negative. This is information that managers with a high emotional intelligence would see in the day-to-day interactions with their teams. Scores like this also have the potential to provide insight in real time.

Because human emotions are complex, often contradictory, and always changing, the NEI score acts as a compass to help a business follow the ebb and flow of the overall positive or negative sentiments percolating in various areas of an organization. 

Business Benefits of the Net Emotional Index

  • Mitigate the causes of expensive employee turnover

  • Track emotional volatility 

  • Track events that can trigger a shift in emotional states

  • Understand the cultivation of corporate culture

Changes in staffing, leadership, organizational hierarchy, as well as culture all affect the emotional state of the people that work for a company. If the C-suite is making decisions without an understanding of the impact those changes have on their most valuable asset, the humans that make it all possible, then they are making decisions in the dark and often suffer from the law of unintended consequences.

The NEI is intended to be anonymous, protecting the psychological safety of the individuals providing emotional data. And makes it possible over time to gather authentic data points that are not skewed based on what the respondents think the boss wants to hear. Feelings matter and they are real and valid data points that can drive better decision making and healthier workplace environments.

According to a recent study by the Society of Human Resources Management, businesses reported employee replacement costs of $44 billion in 2019. People rarely leave jobs because there were not enough team building events or the right kinds of snacks in the office kitchen. They leave because the level of stress and dissatisfaction is higher than the monetary compensation they receive. Employee stress and dissatisfaction are more often a result of culture and not the parameters of the job. 

Employee Benefits of the Net Emotional Index

  • Emotional Awareness

  • Emotional Regulation

  • Cultural Inclusion

Pausing to consider how you feel in a random moment can help a person develop better emotional awareness. Emotional awareness is a skill that contributes to high emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is a key leadership skill.

Asking employees, particularly anyone that identifies with a marginalized group, how they feel on a regular basis contributes to their sense of belonging. They are validated, heard, and seen. When companies demonstrate that feelings truly matter, it builds trust within the organization.

Using an experience sampling method to collect emotional data can also help with emotional regulation. For example, high levels of irritation or frustration that cause a person to be unable to think straight is an amygdala hijack. Recovering from an amygdala hijack can take as much as 18 minutes for someone who is mindful and skilled to calm back down. The best way to transition from that state and return to a calmer, more rational mindset is to acknowledge the emotion. Providing an opportunity to report 🤯 in a moment of frustration can help a person acknowledge what they are feeling in that moment and choose how they are going to react.

Track your team’s NEI

If you want to track and calculate your NEI, you can refer to a step-by-step process on the Net Emotional Index website.

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By Michelle Stinson Ross, Writer for Mindful Appy

I’m currently practicing as a digital strategist and marketer, and applying mindful practices to marketing communication and storytelling.

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