How to build a brain-friendly work environment after COVID-19

Follow this expert advice to maintain and sharpen your mind and well-being for our new frontiers ahead.

We’re gearing up to go back to work—gradually.

And we have a real opportunity to do many things differently as we ease back into business, not because we have to (to keep us safe), but because we can. For those of us lucky enough to have been employed during the lockdown, let’s make sure we keep the best of our new ways of working as we embark on our new normal. Brain science can show us how. What’s good for brains is good for business.

Here are three things to consider:

Less is more. Brains need time to think and a change of scenery to stay fresh. Cutting down on commutes and having time for exercise and hobbies (think: cycling, cooking, quilting, and more) is great for brains. Good quality thinking takes time. Brain research shows that the “busy-ness” we’ve been addicted to is simply not how to get the best of ourselves.

Exercise makes it easier for the brain to grow and make new connections. Getting out into the green of a park reduces stress and sparks creativity. When in the pre-COVID-19 world did we have time for this? We didn’t, but we do now. Let’s keep these practices in place as we redesign our work lives.

Spending time with loved ones is good for the brain—and work performance. Our brains are designed to be in relationships. While lockdown living has had some challenges—and it’s been incredibly tough for those who have lost friends or family—many of us have enjoyed having more time to spend with our loved ones. It’s created positive neurochemistry. Spending enough time with our nearest and dearest is good for the brain, and this is good for our performance at work.

The more brains, the better. Our brains are as unique as our fingerprints. Most work cultures tend to suit some brains better than others. However, the sudden COVID-19 virtual work world has neutralized many work environments. For instance, it’s made it easier for part-time working moms to feel as included as full-time working men.

Men’s and women’s brains are different in fundamental ways, including connectivity and brain chemistry. While this isn’t black and white, it does mean that men and women often think differently. Yet great problem-solving requires these different viewpoints. Our new virtual workplaces have accessed these brain-sex differences in ways that benefit everyone. Let’s now create new work cultures that get the best of all the brains, not just a select few.

We must work together more than ever to deal with COVID-19, revitalize our economy, and build more resilient communities. It’s a tough task, but we can do it by incorporating more virtual work, making family-friendly flexible working hours the norm, and ensuring the brains of all sexes feel welcome at work. In this setting, everybody wins. So let’s do it.

Kate Lanz is the founder and CEO of Mindbridge, a UK-based global leadership company specializing in the power of modern neuroscience and releasing latent brain potential. She is the author of All the Brains in the Business: The Engendered Brain in the 21st Century Organisation. Learn more at mindbridge.co.uk.

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