Yesterday at 12:15pm as I was sitting at an open-plan desk working away, the tantalizing smells of someone's beef stew wafted past my nose and alerted me to the arrival of lunch time. While I had originally intended to break at 12:30, for the next fifteen minutes my head was nowhere in my work.
It made me think that Marius Kloppers may actually not be too far off the mark.
While BHP's new office rules generated mixed responses from accusations of draconian methods to resigned acceptance of a rigid new order, I'm inclined to believe that the author of these rules knows a thing or two about how the brain works. Especially after yesterday's stew incident, the smells of which permeated the entire floor for the rest of the afternoon. I'm still salivating at the thought and never even got a taste.
Here's why Marius Kloppers may be a brain-friendly boss:
Distractions are everywhere. They chew up critical time and energy, are exhausting to deal with and can lead to an experience of overwhelm.
Phone calls, text messages, emails, casual conversations, sudden emergencies all derail us from our given tasks at hand, chewing up valuable time and energy. Studies have found distractions cost an average of 2 hours per day of your time. Remember that wish for more time in your day? Forget about it unless you can get rid of distractions.
Even worse, it can take up to 25 minutes to get your head back into what you were doing before you were pulled off course; just in time for another one to arrive. No wonder we're experiencing time pressures.
While we often have little control over the interactions that are a necessary part of our workplace, there are things we can do to minimise distractions and give ourselves a sense of being more in control of our day. One such practice is having a clean desk.
Research has shown there to be a direct correlation between clutter and productivity. For instance, on average, workers waste over 4 hours per week searching for papers.
The prefrontal cortex is energy-intensive and bandwidth poor.
Ever feel like your brain is full? That's because your working memory has a small capacity. If you try to hold too many things "top of mind" at once you can literally overburden your brain.
The brain continually scans the environment, then makes predictions based on the information it receives. A cluttered desk can send a signal to your brain to be overwhelmed before your day has even begun!
The greater the clutter, the less clarity one has about what is actually on your desk leading to an sense of uncertainty. This can drive a threat response in the brain adding to rest.
I must confess as I write this I look to my left at the pile of papers I've yet to deal with today and notice my brain starting to worry about what I missed. Sound familiar? Maybe it is time to rethink your desk policy?
The downside to these new initiatives may be more in how they were implemented than the actual policies. People always respond more readily to engagement and education versus directives. Both fairness and autonomy are very important to the brain and giving people an experience of choice in the matter will always lead to a better result.