The key to better brain performance in the workplace
It’s been well documented that sitting for hours on end is bad for the body and can lead to back pain and higher risks of heart disease and diabetes – but it also dramatically slows down brain activity and the ability to think and create at work, as research continues to show.
Isla Galloway-Gaul, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy said: “As neuroscientists continue to learn about brain functioning, it’s clearer than ever. The body and brain function interdependently.
“In as little as 30 minutes, sitting can lead to foggy thinking and office workers becoming more distracted, as a result, hampers the ability to analyse, think critically and problem solve.”
Steelcase, a global office services design company which is represented by Inspiration Office in South Africa, recently referenced several findings in their recent report which highlight how best to help our brains perform well in the workplace.
The impact of movement
John Medina, the author of Brain Rules, noted that physical activity is ‘cognitive candy’ for people. It makes us more energised, engaged and focused. Changing postures and sitting less translates into more physical, mental and emotional engagement in the problem-solving process.
Studies conducted at the University of Illinois showed a person’s ability to solve a problem can be influenced by how he or she moves. They concluded that the brain can use body movement cues to help understand and solve complex problems. Stanford University investigated the simple act of walking. It’s something most people can do quite easily and it enhances creative ideas.
“They found have found that walking increased the study group’s creative output by an average of 60 percent,” Galloway-Gaul noted.
Galloway-Gaul said the implications for how teams work in the office are particularly important. The office needs to provide for a variety of postures. A collaborative space assures individuals they can move through the full range of team dynamics. From ideas generation to critique and reflection, while releasing tension and renewing energy, all by moving.
“Movement allows team members to be close to each other, as a result, it promotes problem-solving discussions. It furthermore brings the opportunity to interact with whiteboards and technologies that array and aggregate their ideas. Even pacing around the room has been shown to increase creativity,” she added.
“When you’re not owned by your chair, the office becomes a place for sharing ideas, therefore becoming a very different experience. Moving helps to think and feel better.”
Even just standing up or performing small movements can pump fresh blood and oxygen to the brain. This triggers the release of chemicals like endorphins and dopamine, which improve mood and memory. It plays a role in creativity by stimulating the brain to forge new neural pathways, in contrast to focusing on what it already knows.
“This means movement can have an immediate effect on how quickly an insight is reached,” Galloway-Gaul concluded.