The sun is shining, yet you’re stuck in the office, another urgent text will come in and a new string of email alerts pop up. As you are trying to climb a mountain of emails you become tempted to take a lunch break and find yourself late for your third meeting of the day; you’re feeling more stressed than ever.

Such scenarios of near-constant distraction at work have become the norm in today’s working life. Recent research conducted by Steelcase, the world leader in the provision of high performance workplace solutions, identifies that the way to increase productivity is not always about doing more focused work or putting in more hours. Instead, it’s about getting smarter about how to use your brain, learning its limitations as well as how to leverage its full capacity to direct our attention and inspire us in different ways throughout the workday.

Beatriz Arantes, psychologist and senior researcher at Steelcase said:

“Part of the problem of being distracted, and the solution, lies in ourselves. By changing our existing habits, we can gain more control of our brain – and our lives.

“As we become more knowledgeable about how our brain works and more attuned to the ebbs and flows of our attention, it becomes easier to recognise what our brain needs and when”.

Beach 2 (PD)

Steelcase researchers and designers have identified three brain models and solutions that each require distinct behaviours and settings:

Focus – When we need to deeply focus on a task, it is important to avoid unwelcome distractions. Every time we switch our attention we burn through finite neutral resources and increase opportunities for the limbic system to hijack our focus. Switch off your phone, create a space that enables you to control external stimuli such as sound, sightlines, lightning and temperature to your own individual preferences.

Regenerate + Inspire – Although self-regulation is necessary for controlled attention it’s important to recognise that distractions can be an opportunity to give our brain the timeout it needs and then let our minds go where they will. Easy access to colleagues, nourishment and places to rest the mind can help cognitively-overwhelmed workers gain new perspective.

Activate – When we need to activate our mind, a key is to move our bodies. Although we may have learned otherwise at school, static sitting sabotages our ability to concentrate. By providing a work setting that incorporates opportunities for movement – whether a brainstorm session or a walk during a conference call, this activity refreshes the mind as well as the body.

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