I recently spoke at Gartner’s Enterprise IT Leaders Peer Forum and various other panels and events. While the topics ranged from experience design, to bringing your best self to life, to post-pandemic parental life, the underlying concept was the same. It all came down to capacity. Unlocking, understanding, and managing human capacity, was the key to success.

It has been an amazing journey at EMQ (the Energy Management Quotient). While we set out to determine what was needed for people to perform and feel their best, over time, our data revealed a way to quantify and increase human capacity. It is a topic that I am very passionate about. I believe that every human deserves the opportunity to bring their whole self to life, to realize their potential and have the chance to contribute their unique gifts, thoughts and ideas to leave the world a better place.

The role of capacity is clear in many areas. For example, if you don’t have enough mental capacity, you may miss clues that tell you how to best interact with others as your mind is distracted, you may not have as high quality output as you lack energy for the task at hand, you may feel more drained and depleted etc. However, the link to experience design may be harder to see. While experience designers have long understood the impact of capacity, it is even more critical as we move forward from the pandemic, especially given the ways in which humans have fundamentally changed. Here are some things to think about as you redefine and reimagine your experiences for the post pandemic world and beyond!

How are you designing for people’s emotional state?

People are experiencing increased stress. They are rushing from online meeting to meeting, or perhaps living a hybrid model where their physical surroundings and in-office experience are not as they remember pre-pandemic. They are simply trying to fit it all in. We found many people spend at least half their day in back-to-back meetings. With the average human energy cycle being 90-minutes, this pushes people mentally, emotionally, and physically far beyond that. Meeting fatigue creeps up on them and at the end of the day, they are wiped.

In this higher stress, drained state, we are simply less tolerant. We do not have the mental space to handle some of the everyday stressors as well as we may otherwise do so. That little thing your partner does that normally doesn’t annoy you, is now the most annoying thing you have ever heard or seen.

What does this mean for you as you design experiences? Well, there is a high chance that people are not in a positive state when they interact with your experience. In a negative state, the mind narrows and becomes laser-focused. The small annoyances of your experience will annoy them even more and stick in their mind. Think about how you are designing for their emotional state. Do you even understand the emotional state of your customers and users? Do you know what they may feel throughout the day and why? How do they feel when they interact with your experience?

When do your consumers have the capacity to interact and engage with you?

People are less tolerant of wasted time. Every minute matters more than ever before. People are looking at their lives, examining if they have spent time on what matters. Did they miss moments because they were too busy working? All these thoughts have risen to the surface, evoking realizations to the importance of time and the choices we make in how we spend it.

That 3-mins waiting for a file to download, that 20-mins searching for an answer on the support site, all feel longer, and all can evoke even more negative feelings.

How do you ensure that every minute truly matters and that you respect their time? That each step in their journey is leading them towards their goal with your experience in a positive and productive way? How do you design for the moments where things break or go wrong? How are you truly providing them meaning? Does your experience make them better, happier, smarter or faster?

How do you enable work-life harmony?

The lines between professional and personal life were blurry at best. Thanks to COVID, for many, they are well and truly gone. With many people working wherever they want to, for several experiences you have less control of the environment than ever before. Do you have the infrastructure and operational supporting systems in place to handle the digitization levels that are needed? How do you enable them to experience your product, service, or solution where and how they need to for their life?

Do you understand the capacity of your employees?

The people that create and deliver the experience also need the capacity to bring all of themselves to what they do. For example, if your support desk engineer doesn’t have the capacity to handle the customer well, then a possible brand transforming experience may be an epic failure. Presenteeism is a real issue, costing businesses 1.5 trillion dollars a year in the USA alone, according to most sources. This is when employees are indeed working, but not showing up at full capacity. In this state, productivity, engagement, collaboration and innovation all suffer.

How are you helping employees to optimize and unlock their capacity? How are you supporting them bringing all of themselves to life?

Ask yourself, how are you designing for capacity?

When you design an experience, for any user, how are you designing with capacity in mind? Do you design with a realistic expectation of your user? Or are you designing based on the assumption that someone will be directing all of their attention to your experience?

Knowing that many are unlikely to be at full capacity when they interact with your experience, how do you design for focus and attention if it’s needed? For example, think about mission-critical actions or actions with high impact consequences. And, in some moments it may be better to not be noticed. In these moments, how do you design to not take up someone’s mental capacity? It comes down to engaging enough of their mind at the right moment.

Designing for capacity has always been important, but COVID has given it a refresh, and it is needed more than ever. To succeed, you must remember to design for the capacity, resiliency & agility of systems, and people.