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Rejuvenate Your Mind While You Work

10 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Mind While You Work

Geil Browning, Ph.D. | Founder and CEO of Emergenetics International

Geil Browning, Ph.D. 

(This article was originally written by Dr. Geil Browning for Inc.com)

In my column for Inc.com, I’ve written about how I lead groups of volunteers to work with the Kenyan Children Foundation in Africa, and how we all return home exhausted but with our brains refreshed and renewed. We take a break from our usual ways of thinking and open our minds to new ideas and experiences. But you don’t have to travel thousands of miles from home to recharge your brain or rejuvenate your mind.

As an entrepreneur, you probably work upward of 60 hours a week. Forbes interviewed 20 entrepreneurs about their work habits and found they worked an average of 60 to more than 100 hours per week. Most noted that weekdays were not much different from weekends, and that personal time off did not exist at all. One responded, “the concept of ‘work’ disappears–it is just what we do.”

As anyone who has crammed for an exam can tell you, usually the number of hours we work without interruption is inversely proportionate to how much we accomplish. So how do these entrepreneurs manage to work so many hours without suffering from brain fatigue?

Well, first of all, it is because they truly love being an entrepreneur and are passionate about their enterprise. But, I believe, part of the answer is that they wear so many hats. They never get stuck doing the same kind of work for too long.

Here are some more brain-based tips that can work wonders for rejuvenating your mind:

1. Buy a good office chair, or get a standing desk. 

Focal Upright Furniture has a brand-new chair-and-desk combination on the market. Invented by Martin Keen, of Keen shoes fame, it uses a position between sitting and standing, and allows lots of movement as you work. It also helps those who use it remain attentive.

2. Do not multitask.

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, tells us the brain cannot multitask, period. What it does do is switch back and forth between tasks very quickly. Someone whose attention is interrupted not only takes 50% longer to accomplish a task but also makes up to 50% more errors. A study in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people who talk on the cell phone while driving are four times more likely to have an accident because it isn’t possible to devote your full attention to both driving and talking at the same time. Hands-free calling offered no advantage. What’s the lesson to take away? Focus on one task at a time, and you’ll accomplish each better and faster–without killing anybody.

3. Use all your senses.

Work is more entertaining for your brain–and therefore makes you more alert–when you engage as many of your senses as possible. Use colored paper and pens. Experiment with peppermint, lemon, or cinnamon aromatherapy. Try playing background music.

4. Don’t make too many decisions in one day.

It sounds farfetched, but if you go shopping in the morning, then negotiate yourself out of eating a cookie at lunch, and finally try to decide between two job offers that afternoon, you might choose the wrong job because you didn’t eat the cookie, according to Scientific American. Making choices depletes your reserves of executive function, or “the mental system involved in abstract thinking, planning, and focusing on one thing instead of another.” This can adversely affect decisions you make later.

 

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10 Essentials of the Most Successful Companies’ Break Rooms

10 Essentials of the Most Successful Companies’ Break Rooms

Break rooms are an often overlooked feature of the workplace that can actually be counterproductive if used improperly. Break rooms are so named because they’re intended to encourage a mental and physical break from the daily races of the office, but there are many other ways you can make your break room an effective establishment in your workplace. You don’t need to go crazy with upgrades and fixtures, but if you invest in your break room with some major essentials, you’ll see a difference in your employees’ productivity and satisfaction almost immediately. Take these features of successful company break rooms as inspiration.

1. Free coffee. Free coffee is a staple in most offices for a reason. Make sure you have some kind of coffee available in your break room, with all the extras–sugar, cream, cups, and stirrers, at least. Coffee works as a positive incentive for your workers, functioning as an added perk for the job (pun intended). But keeping a flow of coffee is also beneficial for your company’s long-term productivity. Caffeine increases attention spans, improves focus, and boosts mental energy so your workers can work more and feel rewarded while doing so. Plus, coffee is relatively inexpensive, so it’s a small investment for a potentially large return.

2. Lunch tables. No break room is complete without an area for your employees to actually take a break. Lunch tables are important for the obvious reasons: they give people space to sit down and eat a meal during their lunch breaks. But they also serve a more important purpose–they create a natural opportunity for your workers to engage with one another. Those conversations can help to solve existing problems facing those workers, or promote interpersonal connections and a greater sense of teamwork.

3. Differentiation. Don’t make your break room a simple extension of the rest of your office. Do something to make it stand out. For example, you could change the color of the walls or the layout of the room to make the break room feel like it’s a part of a different building. Making this distinction is important because it will allow your workers to fully disconnect from their workspace and decompress. The change in environment will give them a chance to relax and embrace the change in scenery. When they return to work, they’ll start fresh, and productivity will substantially increase.

4. Games. Games are important in the break room for two reasons. First, they give people a chance to unwind and engage in an activity that doesn’t stress them out. It helps relieve stress and promotes greater productivity when the employees go back to work. Second, if you offer a multiplayer game like foosball or billiards, it promotes bonding amongst your workers and leads to a stronger team mentality.

5. Decoration. The break room should be a lively, stimulating place. Don’t keep white walls with a single poster describing workers’ legal rights. Instead, paint the break room a unique color or feature an idiosyncratic pattern. You can also decorate your tables and walls with various items, from motivational posters to community-based bulletin boards. Whatever you do, it’s important to make the break room an interesting place. Otherwise, it will feel like a part of the office, and your workers won’t feel relaxed. Try not to overthink it either–just create an interesting environment that stands out from the rest of the office.

6. Healthy food options. If you want to go the extra mile, include some healthy food options for your workers. Like with the free coffee, your workers will consider it an extra perk of the job, but there are other benefits to offering healthy food in the break room. A healthy snack can curb workers’ hunger without a sharp spike in insulin, which can lead to a crash later. This way, workers can settle their hunger and improve their productivity without resulting in a lethargic mid-afternoon droop. Include options like nuts, whole grains, yogurt, and fresh vegetables if you can.

7. Comfortable seating. Stiff wooden chairs won’t cut it for a successful break room. Comfortable furniture might cost a bit more, but it will also help your workers feel more relaxed and respected. Since your break room is more than just a place to eat lunch, you could even include a couch or two to accommodate workers just looking to relax. Upgrading your furniture may seem like a trivial improvement, but the long-term benefits are significant.

8. Televisions. Televisions are expensive, and for that reason, they aren’t for every business. But if you can afford to put a television or two in your break room, go for it. Keep them at a low volume and restrict the number of channels available to cut down on their potential as a distraction, but televisions can be extremely valuable in entertaining and informing your employees. A steady stream of relevant information, such as national news, helps your workers feel more involved and get more informed about the happenings of the world outside your office. If you can’t have televisions, newspapers may be a suitable alternative.

9. Celebrations. Break rooms should be host to regular celebrations throughout your company, depending on how and when you choose to honor your employees. For example, you could celebrate individual employees’ birthdays in the break room, or save it for recognizing departmental achievements. No matter what types of celebrations you include, make your break room a place people associate with positive experiences. It will add to the relaxing, separated atmosphere of the room and improve the break time your employees have on a regular basis.

10. Requested features. Finally, truly great break rooms have features that have been requested by your employees themselves. There’s no better way to find out what they value than to simply ask them. In your break room, put a comment box that allows employees to submit ideas they have about how to make the break room a better place. Then, incorporate the most valuable suggestions. It will show that you care about their opinions and it will make them happy when you give them what they want (even if it’s something small). If you feel adventurous, you could apply this concept to your entire company.

You don’t have to have the most advanced break room in the world in order to boost productivity and keep your employees happy. However, if you make the effort to create a place where your workers can truly relax and refresh themselves, they’ll reward you with better work and greater satisfaction.

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