Where do you do your best thinking? It’s likely in a brain safe environment.
Is it when you’re exercising, during the daily commute to and from work, or in that long boring meeting that you switched off to hours ago?
Wouldn’t it be great to have the confidence of knowing you can always think well; to solve your problems fast, to come easily to a decision that feels right, and have the clarity of knowing what you need to do next?
Sadly, the statistics tell us this isn’t the case. With up to 70% of workers reportedly disengaged, stress levels at critical levels (with the accompanying surge in mental health problems and mood disorders), too many people are experiencing overwhelm, exhaustion and burnout.
Hardly conducive to better thinking.
Which is why the current model of work is broken, and it won’t be fixed by providing a nice coffee machine and a discount gym membership.
In our world that is feeling increasingly threatened and excited by the prospect of automation, A.I. and the reinvention of work itself, the need to attend to the human workplace as a brain safe environment is now urgent.
A brain safe environment is one that enables people to think at their best because they have the resources, the support and encouragement to do so. A workplace that is people-centric, will enjoy the bonus of a happy, healthy workforce that is more focused, efficient and productive, and that’s good for the individual, the business and the bottom line.
Moreover, it doesn’t have to be hard or expensive.
But it does require leadership with a vision for the future where results and relationships are given equal footing, along with a commitment to do the work required to bring the necessary changes about.
In examining some of the symptoms associated with current workplace malaise, these are four of the problems requiring our immediate attention to create more a brain safe environment:
- The expectation or assumption that you are always contactable, anywhere, anytime.
Our new technologies and social media platforms enable and encourage us to stay connected 24/7. While this can aid us to be more flexible around the where and when we work, it has made it harder to switch off. We have reached the point where work has become our reason for being, taking priority over everything else, which is bad for our health, performance and relationships.
Research has shown how our love affair with technology is linked to higher levels of anxiety, sleep disturbance and stress.
- The illusion of time poverty leading to a lack of prioritisation, critical thinking and increased errors.
Too much to do in too little time is the common catch cry. Busy is no longer a status symbol it’s the new norm. It’s resulting in us working longer hours in the misplaced belief this will enable us to catch up – but it’s a fallacy. It’s also resulting in us treating everything with the same degree of urgency because we’re not taking the time to pause to set out and identify our true priorities This keeps the brain in a hyper-stimulated state contributing further to rising fatigue and stress levels.
- Worsening health due to poor workplace practices leading to an increasingly sedentary and chronically fatigued workforce.
Chronic medical conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes and some mental health disorders are becoming an increasing burden to society at large, fuelled by insufficient value being ascribed to the fundamentals that support better health and cognition including getting enough sleep, making healthier food choices that support mood, memory and cognition and encouraging everyone to be more physically active at work.
- The sense that within an organisation we as an individual don’t count – it’s all about meeting the KPI’s and expected deliverables.
Being treated as if we are a machine or a number is dehumanising and in the 21st Century, totally unacceptable. Being treated as a person, with a name known by your boss, promotes that sense of belonging and motivates us to put in that extra discretionary effort, because we want to, rather than having to be cajoled, bullied or coerced into it.
The findings from the science over the last couple of decades have provided a far better understanding of what makes us tick and what really works to elevate confidence, competence and capability.
What’s exciting is that more and more businesses are realising this and that the best investment they will ever make, is in the brains of those who work for them. Which is why I developed the Future Brain Program, a 12-month program based on the three pillars needed for high-performance thinking.
- Building greater brain awareness to understand how our mental hardware is set up.
- Becoming more brain-savvy, by implementing those workplace practices shown to work with the brain in mind.
- Keeping everyone brain safe, promoting better interpersonal relationships, effective communication and elevating happiness