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How to Make a Brain-Friendly Workplace

Productivity flourishes under the right conditions, not just the right leader. If you want a successful business, make your employees happy. If you want a successful and profitable business, make their brains happy. Chemicals in the brain create pleasure, motivation, kinship, and inspiration when working conditions are optimal. In fact, an enriched environment is necessary for brains to grow new neurons — the brain cells that learn and connect.

To save viable brain cells and encourage the growth of new cells, try the following:

  • Encourage workers to decorate their cubicles or offices. A personalized space is more fun to be in.

  • Provide visual goals for them to display. You actually do get the picture more than you “get” words. Most studies show that adding a visual to information increases retention from a mere 10 percent to 65 percent. The brain is set up for visual representations, and the eyes can be trained to see what is important.

  • Use productive color combinations in those cubicles. Many studies suggest that color affects the brain and behavior, mood and emotions. Some suggest that painting waiting rooms blue to provide the feeling of reliability is a great idea. And some businesses are carefully choosing uniforms according to what customers might perceive from colors.

  • Provide music for motivation. Background sounds help most people feel less alone and less stressed. Different genres or beats can encourage relaxation, upbeat energy, or productivity. Music also helps you remember information, in large part because it affects your emotions. The same part of the brain controls both emotions and long-term memory. Attach music to learning, and you add an emotional element that stimulates retention.

  • Provide bright lighting and appropriate lighting for close work. Dim lighting increases the production of melatonin, the chemical that makes you sleepy. It also increases the likelihood of accidents, eyestrain, and stress.

    You may want to avoid fluorescent lighting, even though it’s cheaper. Fluorescents increase levels of stress hormones, such as cortisol. Natural sunlight is best for mood, energy, and generally feeling good. If you have offices without windows, try full-spectrum lighting, which mimics sunlight.

  • Encourage employees to take frequent breaks, to leave the cubby and see daylight and fellow workers. These social and movement breaks give the brain a rest; seeing others reminds workers that they aren’t in this alone.

  • Offer time and opportunity for play, exercise, and interaction. Movement and interaction release chemicals that help with focus, concentration, and feeling bonded with others.

  • Give employees work to do in small groups, so they’re not isolated most of the day. Isolation can lead to depression. Groups provide conversation, interaction, and an opportunity to ask questions and solve problems.

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