Is your office brain-friendly?

This article originally appeared in Australasian Lawyer

The whole purpose of employing somebody is that they work to their full potential. This is a fact that’s often forgotten in the workplace, said Dr Jenny Brockis, medical practitioner and author of the book Future Brain.

Employers hire somebody after seeing their CV and think they are capable of performing to a certain level. That’s the expectation when they come to the workplace, said Dr Brockis.

But sometimes that doesn’t always happen if there is something else going on.

“It could be that they have got a physical ailment which is getting them down, like the flu. Or it could be something that’s worrying them and they are feeling stressed,” she said.

If we don’t take care of our brain we don’t cope as well with other things that deviate us from working to our true potential, Dr Brockis added.

“It’s one thing that hasn’t been thought about much before because the focus has been on finding somebody who’s physically fit. So people are encouraged to sign up for gym memberships, do yoga classes, and things like that,” she said.

“That’s all well and good, but it’s not necessarily enough to make sure that somebody is actually thinking well and applying their knowledge in the way that you want them to.

“Let’s face it, the whole purpose of having a business is that you want people to perform, to be productive and to make a profit.”

The first step to building a brain-friendly office is to raise awareness why it’s important to have a healthy brain, she told L&D Professional.

This includes looking at which are the most appropriate lifestyle choices to create a fit and healthy brain, and that has to come from the top.

Dr Brockis explained that it’s no good just saying to people we want you to exercise, eat well and make sure you get enough sleep. Rather, it’s about ensuring that people understand the benefits of that.

“Employees need to see that that is what the business lives by, so they need to see that the person at the top, the managers and the leaders are actually doing it themselves,” she said.

The second step is to ensure that people feel mentally safe because the brain has one objective and that’s to keep us safe.

“From an evolutionary point of view that was good because it meant we didn’t get eaten by the sabre-tooth tigers,” said Dr Brockis.

“But today hopefully we don’t have many of those in the office.”

However, she said that there are many circumstances where employees feel unsafe at work. This isn’t so much physical safety, but a lack of mental safety.

“We have to deal with toxic relationships, difficult people, misinterpretation of instructions, and being uncertain about things,” said Dr Brockis.

“All of those things make us feel unsafe and that induces a stress response where we feel more stressed. You don’t think straight.

“Brain health at work is about ensuring that people feel safe.”

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