“Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. “
“A daytime nap will produce nearly as much skill-memory enhancement as a whole night of sleep.”
A stretch of downtime increases the brain’s ability to retain information by allowing time for it to be absorbed and integrated into mental databanks.
What Your Brain Needs to Perform
In spite of this research, most workplaces are unlikely to include an afternoon nap among stated HR policies. Employers, however, would do well to think about how downtime supports overall brain health and improves mental performance. Since even a short power nap has incredible restorative powers, maybe it’s time to swap out the afternoon coffee break?
Of course, the healthy brain needs more than downtime. According to David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work, our brains must regularly experience seven different states to perform optimally. Ideally, we would engage in each of these activities daily:
Deep Focus: Time spent focusing deeply on a complex problem or project.
Connecting Time: Time spent connecting to people around us, nature or the world outside.
Down Time: Time spent zoning out or doing activities that don’t require active thought so the mind can wander and reflect.
Time In: Time spent journaling, meditating, thinking deep thoughts or sharing them with a loved one—anything that allows us to think deeply.
Play Time: Time spent laughing, enjoying time with friends or playing with children.
Physical Time: Time spent in physical activity. Brain health and mental performance improve greatly when we exercise. One recent study from the International Journal of Workplace Health Management found that “people who exercised during their workday were 23 percent more productive on those days than they were when they didn't exercise.”
Admittedly, it may not be possible to support all seven of these mental activities in the workplace. What we can do, though, is use this knowledge about brain health to help keep everyone at work in a better state of mind (literally!) for a mutually beneficial outcome. When we do, employees experience less stress and anxiety and employers benefit from improved productivity and performance.
Here are a just few things that can turn any workplace into a better head space:
It’s interesting to note that work in general is considered good for brain health. Even more so if that work is purposeful and engaging. So taking the extra step to design work and work environments that actively promote better brain health just makes sense; especially with the growing awareness of the connection between brain health and performance.
In today’s workplace, multitasking is appreciated by many as a good work habit and a sign of commitment to the job. Some people seem to be able to juggle personal crises, help co-workers and still get their work done. While they may whirl like dervishes, they seem to take it all in stride without breaking a sweat. These people are powerhouses of productivity—or does it just seem that way?
Mardi Gras Multitasking by Bart Everson, Wikimedia Commons
Former Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, was considered by some to be as powerful as the president during his
One of the most challenging aspects of training is quantifying results. The reason it’s challenging stems from the fact that learning can be difficult to measure. In the workplace, however, it’s critical to measure results to determine whether required information has been absorbed and skills have been acquired—not to mention gauging whether the investment was justified.
Excellence by John Fischer, Flickr
To make sure they can effectively measure the impact of training, good workplace training program developers create learning objectives using a specific format that ensures results can be assessed. Each measurable learning
Cultivating an understanding of risk management fundamentals is valuable at any level of an organization: whether you’re an executive considering the broader risks your company is exposed to in a globally competitive environment, or a front line supervisor responsible for workplace safety.
Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain
Pro-Active Risk Management
Ideally, risk assessment and mitigation is part of every planning process. One of the most common areas where pro-active risk management can improve outcomes is at the project level. When planning a project, risks can be categorized into two groups.
Internal Project Risks: These are risks to the project
Self Concept by Nathalya Cubas, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
In 1960, Prentice-Hall published a book by well-known plastic surgeon, Maxwell Maltz. This book, Psycho-Cybernetics, went on to sell over 25 million copies worldwide and is still considered one of the most influential writings about self-concept and the power of visualization in attaining goals.
Maltz discovered that the majority of his patients who underwent cosmetic surgery procedures were still dissatisfied with their looks after the “problems” were corrected. He concluded that people were responding to some inner perception of how they look, rather than seeing what was now in
USA gold medal winner Heather O'Reilly by Geoff Livingston, Wikimedia Commons,Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic
Malcolm Gladwell, author of Outliers: The story of success, writes that accomplishment is all about practice, timing and the doors that are opened for you along the way. In fact, Gladwell firmly believes that inherent talent has little, if anything, to do with success. He provides a number of convincing examples and trends that support his premise: success is about being in the right place at the right time with access to the right people and tools; and that mastery of
Geographic Project, Barrie Eyre, Wikmedia Commons
We recommend that vacation time be a time to unplug, unwind and recharge. Taking work on a vacation does not help with any of those objectives. On the other hand, turning remote work into something enjoyable in a vacation-like environment never hurt anyone.
This is not to suggest that “workations” replace regular vacations. On the contrary, this is about doing the work you might normally do in your home office or at a co-working location on a beach, at a cottage, on your patio or even on a mountaintop.
Sometimes a change
Anyone who has lived through this past winter (yes, it’s over, even if Mother Nature hasn’t quite conceded the point yet!), knows that weather can affect your mood. From the physiological and psychological reactions to reduced daylight and perpetual cold, to acute stress caused by hazardous driving conditions and having to winter-dress children every time they leave the house; life in general is just a bit harder when facing a harsh winter.
Grasshopper of the ZEBRA Stelzentheater, by Katharina on Flikr
On the flip side, sunny days and balmy temperatures have been shown to increase
Cubicle Fresh by Sean Duffell
According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (no, I can’t pronounce it either!), psychology professor and author of Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, people are most creative and productive when they are in a state of “flow.”
Flow is defined as “the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.”
This TED Talk by Professor
Oliver1983, Wikimedia Commons, GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.3
A quick review of the top work-related resolutions in the U.S. from Glassdoor’s Q4, 2013 Employee Confidence Survey reveals that respondents (who are not planning a job change in 2014!) are keen to improve their leadership skills and take other work-related training to enhance their job performance.
Young people around the world are loudly exclaiming “We want to work and make a meaningful contribution to society.”
In Canada, the Bank of Montreal released a survey asking Canadian employees to list their work related New Year’s resolutions. Of