Mental Health in the Workplace 2



The Four Zones of the Emotional Energy Matrix

In Mental Health in the Workplace Part One, we identified the triggers of stress and introduced the Emotional Energy Matrix as a tool to help manage stress and look after mental wellbeing. In this second part, I will explain the zones within the Matrix and how they work.

The Matrix includes the following four zones:

  • Survival Zone
  • Burnout Zone
  • Recovery Zone
  • Performance Zone

We’re all likely to find ourselves in each of these zones, or even move through each different zone on the same day. A first step is the need to be consciously aware (self-awareness) of where you, and where the people you work with, are spending the most time. And, if you are in a different zone, what to do about it.

Understanding the Four Zones and how they impact you

Survival Zone (Negative Emotion and High Energy)

When we’re angry, fearful, anxious, or defensive, we’re likely to be in the Survival Zone. Emotions are running high, but they’re not necessarily coming from a good place. This zone is where many of us find ourselves spending a lot of time, trying to meet the demands of our professional and personal lives. It is certainly possible to perform in this zone although it might feel stressful, but it’s important that you are vigilant as it can become extremely problematic if it leads you in the direction of the Burnout Zone.

Burnout Zone (Low Energy and Negative Emotion)

The Burnout Zone refers to how you and/or the people you are working with are experiencing their lives. Feelings such as hopelessness, sadness, exhaustion, weariness and a sense of being overwhelmed are common in people who are likely to be in this zone. We often end up in this zone when we don’t ‘check in’ with ourselves, and we end up running out of positive emotions and energy when it’s too late.

Recovery Zone (Positive Emotion and Low Energy)

There are many benefits to deliberately taking time out for yourself, to regroup and recharge. In the Recovery Zone, you are experiencing positive emotion and low energy, which is often how people feel on holiday.

However, while we can’t all be on holiday all of the time, there are ways to renew and recharge in your daily life, and this will ultimately make you a much more effective and happier person. Without time set aside for recovery it’s difficult to reach the Performance Zone where many people find they do their best work.

Performance Zone (Positive Emotion and High Energy)

The Performance Zone is associated with passion, connection and efficiency. You feel challenged, but not to the point of being burnt out, because you have the high energy to match your high emotion. In this zone, you’re personally motivated to do great work, and you’re enjoying the process of doing so. As an additional benefit, you’re also able to influence your team in this direction.

In the Emotional Energy Matrix diagram below, this is what current research tells us:


Unfortunately, more than 80% of people are in the Survival/Burnout Zones than any other and, as a result, are operating inefficiently. As someone who works with people and businesses on a daily basis, I’m already aware that the world of work and workplace culture is a major reason people suffer stress and poor mental health. Without action, we are facing a mental health pandemic within the workforce.

The main reason for this is what’s known as the Perception Gap: this is the difference between how the bosses and managers view things, to how their employees view things. Many business owners would understandably want to think of themselves as caring people, running workplaces where people are happy and productive. But these same business owners, when pressed, would place more value on things such as:

  • Increased business profits and productivity
  • Business growth and hitting sales targets
  • Getting ahead of competitors
  • Acquiring more sales, more customers and a greater market share
  • Data numbers, KPIs, more efficient systems and processes
  • Keeping operational costs down
  • Managing risks

All of which are standard business measurement tools. The mental health and well-being of employees might be a ‘nice to have’ but is not likely to make the list above.

This problem becomes worse as the gap widens between the expectations of the business owners and managers, and the reality of daily life for the employees working under stressful conditions. This is known as the Reality Gap.

In Mental Health in the Workplace – Part 3, the final part of this blog, I’m going to explain how you can significantly reduce the Reality Gap for yourself and for the people you work with.

Free 1-hour Taster Sessions are available on this topic; for further information on dates/times and how to book, or for an informal chat with Chris, please contact