Neuroscience for improved employee experience and productivity

Researchers are using EEG brain scans to crack the employee engagement code

Neuroscience for improved employee experience and productivity

HR professionals have been trying for years to nail down what makes employees tick, how to improve engagement and also productivity, and formulate systems to make it work in their organizations. But although there have been countless studies that showed how to engage effectively with workforces, employers still seem to be missing vital element.

A collaboration between Wharton Neuroscience Initiative (WNI) and global consulting firm Slalom is aiming to find out.

“HR professionals are constantly searching for best practices for improving workplace culture, making teamwork more efficient, and streamlining their employee's day-to-day operations while retaining and recruiting talent,” said Natalie Richardson, HabLab director at Slalom. “Turns out, the answers may lie in neuroscience.“

By giving EEG headsets to over 650 volunteer Slalom employees and studying the results that were recorded during their workdays, the researchers were able to draw some interesting conclusions for HR professionals to consider when implementing employee engagement strategies.

Taking breaks is crucial to relieve “Zoom fatigue”

One finding the study reported was that “Zoom fatigue” is a real phenomenon. Due to less requirement to travel to meetings, a practice of scheduling back-to-back meetings has become the norm, and it has been shown that endless meetings depress brain waves and reduce motivation.

Results from the EEG scans showed that breaks as short as ten minutes can have a significant positive effect on brain activity throughout the day. Specifically, employees who took ten-minute breaks between meetings showed more brain signals associated with lower stress levels and deep, creative thought.

HR can assist with this strategy by building breaks into scheduling, for example by scheduling meetings for 20 or 50 minutes instead of half an hour or an hour. This can reduce the effect of Zoom fatigue. For this reason, creating a workplace culture that includes taking regular breaks is recommended.

Work friendships improve engagement with the organization

Other findings of the research showed that “work friends” shared similar brain activity when watching videos promoting their organization, and that this “brain synchrony” effect was true as much for virtual work friends as for in-person colleagues.

It also showed that less engaged employees are less likely to resonate with internal messaging. In particular, employees who were located in the local market of an organization were more engaged and responded more to internal messaging, highlighting the need for HR to be more aware of the needs of further-afield employees.

“Employees who work together in local markets share more experiences both at work and in the local community and are bound together by a shared language and culture,” reported WNI. “By contrast, employees working in global markets may lack these shared experiences, encounter cultural differences, and face significant time-zone differences with their colleagues around the world.” 

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