The Relationship Between The Workplace And The Brain11-12-2018
Studies show that aspects of the workplace such as the colours on the walls, the use of natural or electrical lighting and the height of the ceiling, could considerably impact the mental health and well-being of employees. The average full-time employee could be spending potentially 40 hours a week working within the same 4 walls of the office. Spending that amount of time in an enclosed, dull office isn’t the ideal environment, and certainly not one that will increase creativity and productivity. In fact, in the long term, that type of environment could have a negative effect on the well-being of the individual and lead to illnesses such as stress – resulting in days off sick to recover at home.
So, what aspects can help to support happy and healthy employees and how does the brain interpret these? Through years of research, scientists have discovered the correlation between the brain and the environment we work in. Whilst not all of the following points we are about to discuss are quick fix solutions, it’s good to know what impact they do have if you are due an office refurbishment or fit-out.
The circadian rhythm is essentially our internal clock which influences a number of factors like our sleep cycles, when to be most alert and our body temperature. One way we can help to keep the circadian rhythm in tune is by being exposed to as much daylight as possible. Having access to sufficient daylight in the workplace can help to reduce sleepiness and increase productivity.
In 1971, neuroscientist John O’Keefe discovered that the hippocampus part of the brain had cells which became active depending on the type of the environment the individual was in – he called these ‘place cells’. Fast forward to 2005, when neuroscientists May-Britt Moser and Edvard I. Moser uncovered ‘grid cells’ during a research project which they found worked in harmony with the ‘place cells’ to create a navigation system within the brain. This sophisticated process allows the brain to identify a location and then decide how to react to it. In the workplace, the brain will use this process to adjust the way we work and act, depending on whether we are in a meeting, at a collaboration point or in the breakout area. Agile working is an ideal way to utilise this process and by having an option of areas we could work in, will help to strengthen productivity levels.
Lines of sight
Mirror neurons are the organisms that make us react a certain way to other people’s actions. Giacomo Rizzolatti, a neuroscientist and his team discovered mirror neurons back in the 1990’s at the University of Parma. Following more research later on, scientists found out that mirror neurons can also react emotionally, for instance if we see someone hurt themselves, we may wince sympathetically. Mirror neurons can play a huge part in a workplace environment. Seeing colleagues working hard, being punctual and communicating to one another in a professional manner, will ensure that kind of work ethic is mirrored throughout the company. Lines of sight could be kept clear by using glass partitioning, open plan offices and low level walls.
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