By Dr Jenny Brockis.
The AiGroup’s 2015 ‘Absenteesim and Presenteeism’ survey estimated the direct cost of employee absenteeism in Australia was $578 a day, representing a yearly cost to the economy of $44 billion, with additional presenteeism costs of about $35 billion.
While some corporate wellness programs focus on improving mental wellbeing and physical health, managing the common workplace maladies of change resistance, high stress levels and exhaustion requires a more holistic approach to elevate cognitive health and mental performance.
Savvy leaders recognise how elevating brain fitness enables individuals to develop the skill sets required for increased cognitive stamina, stress resistance and the ability to handle complex tasks more quickly and easily.
The following are ways leaders can utilise brain-fitness principles to boost workplace contribution, performance and satisfaction.
Be brain aware
Recent findings from brain science have increased our understanding of how the brain operates at its best. Making the conscious choice to use the brain in the way it was designed helps maintain mental-energy levels and reduce stress. Discouraging workplace practices shown not to be helpful, such as multitasking, leads to greater productivity and efficiency. Research from Stanford has shown how multitasking leads to greater difficulty in organising our thoughts, reduces memory and, worse still, is associated with a drop in IQ of between 10 and 15 points. It’s the one brain function that gets worse with practice.
Providing a brain-safe environment is about recognising and reducing threat alerts, such as relationship issues, workload overload and time poverty, that push people into survival mode, nudging them instead towards more rewarding behaviour and ways of thinking, such as a growth-orientated mindset.
Creating a positive company culture as achieved by the Pensar Construction Group in Brisbane where employees are more engaged with their work, contributes to greater commercial success.
Commit to wellbeing
While it’s commonly accepted that exercise, sleep and eating healthily are essential to wellbeing and performance, what matters is embedding these into workplace culture as being expected and valued.
The National Preventative Health Taskforce, which has Australia firmly in its sights to be the healthiest nation by 2020, emphasises this requires everyone getting on board and taking responsibility at an individual and organisational level. Providing flexitime, nap rooms and physical activity programs are a good start.
Providing a workplace designed for people is about recognising that people are not their job description, a resource or a ‘level 4’. We are human and connection at the human level is as important to our survival and ability to flourish as having access to food, water and shelter.
Connection leads to mutual trust, respect and greater relatedness, which increases confidence, competence and capability.
Organisational health may well be the greatest disruptor for future business growth and development. It’s time to invest in the new era of thinking to achieve high mental performance based on greater cognitive health.
Dr Jenny Brockis is a medical practitioner specialising in brain health and mental performance in the workplace. She is the author of Future Brain: The 12 Keys to Create Your High-Performance Brain (Wiley). Visit: www.drjennybrockis.com