NeuroFood for Thought: Organisations are asking more of their people

– This constant predictive activity of the brain in scanning uncertain environmental conditions takes a lot of energy.

– That doesn’t leave a lot left over for people to maintain focus and attention, let alone effective decision making or managing emotion.

HeisenbergUncertaintyPrinciple_JohnnytheGreat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image source: Johnny the Great

 

What can you do about managing workplace stress?

There are many tips for managing workplace stress, but sometimes the amount of information is overwhelming. So, try one of these tips each day to help in your individual management of workplace stress. Explore more when you have the energy and inclination!

  1. Put a morning routine in place;
    • Routine will help stabilise your brain’s environment and help it to save energy for the day.
  2. Make a list of those things about which you are certain for your day;
    • This may include details of tasks needing to be completed for the day, the time you are meeting a colleague for lunch, an exercise appointment at the end of the day.
    • This puts some certainty in the day around the work you need to do and will also assist with attention and focus.
  3. Make a list of those tasks/activities about which you are unclear;
    • Jot down some clarifying questions for your Manager, team leader, project manager before you start to worry about whether or not you are ‘doing the right thing’.
    • This gets the worry out of your head and onto paper – the brain likes to close out the gaps. Uncertainty is like having your brain on a continual loop feed…jotting it down makes the uncertain certain!
  4. Try to notice when you become stressed or agitated;
    • Each time you notice you become stressed or agitated, get up from your desk and go for a short walk/glass of water/healthy food break. You may find the source of the agitation is not work related.
    • Being aware of how you are feeling and the accompanying thoughts is a step closer to managing your reactions to situations.
  5. Plan something each day to which you are looking forward;
    • The brain thrives on Reward and will boost your energy. When rewarded, the brain releases feel good chemicals into the body!

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As a Leader in your organisation you probably have many tips and tools at your fingertips. If not, generally if you approach your Human Resources (HR) department, they will be able to help.

In the meantime, try one of these tips each day to help in your leadership role in the management of workplace stress. Explore more when you have the energy and inclination!

  1. Get a morning routine in place for your team;
    • Routine will help stabilise your brain’s environment and help it to save energy for the day.
    • This may include a quick, rigorously focused stand up meeting at the start of each day for a short period of time (5 mins) in which to re-establish some certainty for your team.
  2. Make a list of those tasks about which you have certainty for your day;
    • Reduce the list to a maximum of 3-4 items (4 is the number of items the brain can manage really efficiently in its working memory).
    • This then becomes your intention list for the day and will help you to focus your attention.
    • When your team unconsciously notice a focused Leader, this will help their focus and attention also.
  3. Be visible and schedule a regular time each day to be available for your team;
    • One of the simplest elements of good leadership is visible leadership – make time each day to walk around your team’s area and engage them in conversation to see how they are going or if they need any help in doing the work you need them to do.
    • Ask your team if they have any ideas about how to get over a hurdle/or complete a task in another way. You’ll be surprised about the stabilising effect this has on your team when done regularly.
    • By the way, do you greet your team members each day?
    • Spending time with your people will also help you develop your ‘gut’ instincts for how the team is feeling in the current organisational climate and possibly to help proactively manage potential issues.
  4. Try to notice when you become stressed or agitated;
    • Each time you notice you become stressed or agitated, get up from your desk and go for a short walk/glass of water/healthy food break. You may find the source of the agitation is not work related.
    • If the stress/agitation is due to uncertainty, detail the areas of uncertainty and seek clarification from  colleagues.
  5. Take the time and space you need for thinking, for decision making;
    • If your workplace is difficult to ‘get away from’ for those leadership moments of thinking, planning, reporting, remove yourself from your workplace. Create your own space for the thinking and decision work vital in your role.
    • Hire the right people for the right work.  Take your time about decisions involving personnel hire – do the people you hire really want to be doing the work for which you are hiring?

EmployeeEngagement2

Image source: www.Delta7.com

 

Interested in finding out more?

Here are a very few references I have found valuable in my continuing journey with applying Neuroscience in the People, Process and Performance work I undertake.

Websites for a taster:

Books to further your interest:

  • Brain Rules: John Medina
  • Brain Work: David A Sousa
  • Your Brain and Business: Srinivasan S Pillay

Learn more with these courses:

 

References for this article:

Assessing the Economic Impact of Stress—The Modern Day Hidden Epidemic by Madhu Kalia, 2002

Brain Pickings The Ravenous Brain by Daniel Bor

From Distressed to De-Stressed publication by Regus, Sept 2012

Mind Gardener Daily tip for managing stress by Martina Sheehan

Protecting Workers’ Health Series No. 3, Work organization and stress by Stavroula Leka, Pr Amanda Griffiths, Pr Tom Cox

Stress the new Workplace EpidemicAustralian Financial Review

The Cost of Workplace Stress Medibank Private Research 2008

Image Sources

Publication: From Distressed to De-Stressed

Email Publication: Mind Gardener

Website: Work Tree Consulting

Website: www.Delta7.com  

Publication: The Cost of Workplace Stress

Website: Johnny the Great