Employee experiences, including what motivates people, have come under closer scrutiny during the global lockdown. As businesses start to move forward, what are the implications for them and their newly distributed workforce?
At our Workday Elevate Digital Experience 2021 in the UK, Shivvy Jervis, a futurist, speaker, and broadcaster, explored the topic of humanising innovation and how businesses will need to adapt to meet the changing needs of the workforce. In this article, she discusses her recent research and offers tips on thriving as humans in the digital future.
The global pandemic has had an enormous impact on how we think about human behaviour and how we engage. How does your research dive into this area?
My work involves forecasting scenarios, making sense of signals, and also looking at brain chemistry, because this guides human interaction. For the past year, I’ve been immersed in a new body of research through my forecasting lab. I realized that if we understood what happens in our brains when we’re in a state of motivation, or something has captured our true attention, this could be extremely valuable when we look at what motivates or engages a remote workforce.
Many of the organisations I advise have told me that their biggest hurdle is keeping a distributed workforce motivated and switched on. And, even as we start to move towards a more normal way of working, with a mix of remote and in-office working, this will still apply.
Your research uncovered seven key areas, but I wanted to ask you about one key area today: “The science behind why we give up,” as you have labelled it. Can you tell us about that?
In some shape or form, large or small, in our jobs, activities, home lives, relationships even, we all give up. Humans stall; we have doubts and hesitation.
That runs into the workplace and becomes just as vital. What happens physiologically, at that crucial moment in time, when we’re on the cusp of considering stepping back from something or fully abandoning and giving up on putting our whole effort into a work activity? At this point, our brains give out something called nociceptin. Now, this is a molecule that pushes down dopamine.
Dopamine, which many of you will have heard of, is the chemical that’s most frequently associated with motivation—with feeling switched on and engaged—and this is very serious stuff. Indeed, it’s been found [dopamine] deficits in our brains can go as far to manifest in the shape of behavioural dysfunctions. In a work context, this doesn’t have to result in a radical move such as thinking you got to quit your job, but it does, more often than not, play out in the smaller day-to-day actions, and they can add up to making you feel disengaged from your daily work.