What's more 'work-life balance' than memory erasure? Severance, the uneasy-feeling  psychological thriller is a dystopian take on the modern workplace. But brain surgeries and implants aside, there's lessons to be learned for today's organizations looking to be more future-fit. 

If you're a 'severed' employee at Lumon Industries, your work 'you' and your life 'you' don't know each other and don't remember each other. A brain implant surgery creates the two separate selves. For eight hours every day, your "innie" knows nothing about your "outie" -- who your wife is (if you have one), what your child looks like, what your hobbies are, and whether you're even happy. 

For the other sixteen hours, you know nothing but those things. 

Sound weird? Maybe. But Lumon is successful in part because its office culture plays on one universal human motivation: the need to create meaning and to belong to something bigger than oneself. For all its dark and eerie moments, the show contains unexpected lessons for how leaders can keep their workers engaged and productive. 

Am I saying we need more Lumon Industries? No, of course not. What I am saying though is that in order to actively design the right employee experience, you need to first understand basic human psychology. Lumon leadership knows the mind of their people. A little too much, yes, but still, the nuggets of wisdom are there.

Have a North Star, and make sure everyone can see it

Whether it's serving Keir Eagan's 9 principles (Lumon), creating a free global conversation (Twitter), or spreading ideas (TED), your business needs a raison d'etre, and everybody needs to be in on it. 

When we feel ownership over where we want to go, our brains get to work figuring out how to get there. We owe this intuition to the conflict resolution skills of our hunter-gatherer ancestors and to an instinctual avoidance of 'psychological discord'. When employees aren't hooked onto an external purpose, their minds will wander inwards... resulting in boredom, stress, and anxiety. Not ideal.

For a switched-on team, play your mission on repeat and include your employees in it. Having a stake in an external goal motivates your employees, induces flow states, and collectively raises their self-esteem when the goals are achieved. The result? Meaningful engagement, productivity, and potentially billions.

Have some fun!

The offices at Lumon Industries may be visually minimalistic, but there's no shortage of rewards for a job well-done. From Waffle and Melon Parties to Five Minute Music Dance Experiences, Lumon bigwigs know that perks are how their clueless employees are kept pacified.

Again, while we don't advocate for corporate dystopia, there's something to be said about the power of positive reinforcement. Put simply, pairing a job well done with a dopamine fix (via perks) conditions your team to perform at their best. Even better, surprising your team with a reward plays on the psychological importance of novelty for driving intrinsic motivation, learning, and arousal of curiosity. 

The outcome is a stimulating work environment where it feels like fun things are always just around the corner... All they have to do is get there. 

Leave room for imagination

Nothing kills creativity like micro-management. While Lumon runs a tight ship, they create space for spontaneity. An book from the outside world left unattended, looser security protocols--these things expose employees to a new reality. As a result, they were able to engage in positive gossip, devise collective goals, bond with their peers over secrets, and vent their concerns about leadership (all very important aspects of workplace socialization).

Strategically giving your employees the freedom to re-imagine their responsibilities how they see fit will increase their sense of autonomy and deepen their camaraderie. The result is similar to the popular IKEA effect, which is that they'll feel a greater sense of ownership and pride over the work they helped envision, in turn increasing their job satisfaction, and ultimately your bottom line.