Skip to content
Homeostaz, Değişim Yorgunluğu ve Çalışan Deneyimi - header
Orçun Irfan Jan 17, 2023 2:21:30 PM 4 min read

Homeostasis, Change Fatigue, and Employee Experience

Change...

Have you ever tried to change a habit in your life?

Any habit, big or small. If you have ever tried to change a habit in your life, then you understand the importance of this article. Because when we encounter even the slightest suggestion of a change that will affect our comfort zone, that is, our daily routines, the first reaction we give as a reflex is negative.

Why do we need this? That's good already; where did that come from? Does that mean we start all over again now?

I am sure that almost everyone who came across a change proposal must have experienced these dialogues in their head. What's the reason for this reflexive resistance to change? Why does change require a conscious effort?

In my research, while writing this article, I saw that many subject matter experts answer this question using the science of psychology. However, I was intrigued by Erika Andersen's biological approach to the subject in an article she wrote for Forbes. Andersen explains the first resistance response to change using the term homeostasis, which refers to an organism's persistent tendency to maintain ideal conditions for survival.

If the temperature rises, our body first activates its internal systems to return to its ideal temperature. If that's not enough, our brains direct us to go into the shade, get into the water, or drink water. Our bodies follow the same path when we are hungry or thirsty. Our brain directs us to food sources or water with the signals it sends to our body. Because the organism wants to return to the ideal conditions it has learned in order to survive and eliminate negative situations.

But at what cost does this code, which we inherit from our ancestors, keep us alive? For example, when we want to lose weight and have a fit body, we usually eat less or differently to create the necessary calorie deficit. We all know this is a difficult task requiring discipline and determination. Because while we are trying to be fit, our organism is trying to get us back to the ideal conditions it has learned.

The cost of homeostasis, that powerful pull towards our comfort zone, can manifest as a lack of discipline in areas such as smoking, sugar consumption, or maintaining a healthy and fit body. Habits on one side of the facade, dreams on the other.

In this respect, I think that the concept of the habit loop, mentioned in Charles Duhigg's book The Power of Habits or James Clear's Atomic Habits, brings biology and psychology together in the same context through homeostasis.

Now, let's get back on track and start connecting the dots.

There are a number of serious organizational habits in your organization, each of which is rooted and requires effort to change, such as the network of relations, communication language, way of doing business, and process flows that have settled over time.

Employees came out of a period in which life disrupted many of our established habits such as adults "go" to work, children "go" to school, shopping is done by "going" to the market, "going" out to eat, meeting with friends "outside" to socialize during the pandemic period.  Maintaining our habitual environment during this period has been a rocky ride for all of us.  Apparently, a term in the world of change describes the side effects of these kinds of rocky rides. According to an article published by the Harvard Business Review, it is called change fatigue.

The term is used to express the resistance or insensitivity of employees to any kind of change initiative within the organization.

January: We are working remotely. All communication will be done via Teams, and you can work outside the city. We have allocated an extra budget for basic expenses for everyone. It will be credited to your account at the end of the month.  

April: We are returning to the office. Face-to-face communication and working together are the best, but don't forget to wear masks in meetings, and before the end of the month, everyone should return to their city of residence at the latest. Note: The budget allocated for basic expenses has been removed as of this month.

September: We work hybrid. Teams on the days we work remotely, and face-to-face communication will be the best when we work from the office. Besides, there is no need for masks in meetings anymore. You can go out of town while working remotely, but don't forget to inform your manager and human resources and sign your travel forms beforehand, please. Note: The budget allocated for basic expenses has been partially reactivated.

We have encountered similar situations in many organizations, as above, throughout and even after the pandemic.

Employees are going through times when the time, consistency, and perhaps most importantly, compassion required to build habits, routines, or comfort zones is hard to come by.

The matter becomes even more severe when you consider that these change movements affect not only the employee himself but also the family and/or the people under their responsibility and the social environment of the employee.

Therefore, change fatigue stands out as a critical issue that needs to be taken care of both for human resources and for leaders working at all levels in today's business world, where change happens instantaneously.

So how can employee experience help organizations with change fatigue?

In my next article, I will talk about two fundamental terms in employee experience, Voice of Employee and Co-Creation, and how these concepts can be a solution to change fatigue.