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Cognitive Hygiene in the Workplace

06/01/2021 2021/01

Cognitive Hygiene in the Workplace

The new year has just begun and the well-known New Year's resolutions are in high season. Have you used the past few days at home to reflect on the past year? Of course, 2020 is in no way comparable to other years, but it still gave us all an impressive reminder of what we can still work on.

One resolution that is probably discarded all too often is to reduce online time. Less smartphone, less tablet, more in the moment, more in the here and now. The trend of "digital detox" and being offline has not just existed since this year. Digitalization is changing our working world at a rapid pace and enables 24/7 availability. The resulting flexibilization and individualization of working hours is readily used and appreciated in the home office, with home schooling, childcare and the like. However, one in five employees still felt strong digital stress at work in 2019, due to this very possibility of permanent accessibility. In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, digital solutions are essential. A fact that some had already recognized and that others became even more acutely aware of by moving to a home office.

How shall we deal with it then? This is where the resolutions mentioned earlier come into it. At the beginning of a new year, most of us wish to do better the things that may not have gone quite satisfactorily last year. New year - new me! However, the percentage of our good resolutions that are still lived in February is probably negligible. Therefore we suggest: We all together pay more attention to our mental health. Because health is, and we have also learned this in 2020, irreplaceable.

The resolution for all of us in 2021 should therefore be: to take a little more break from digital consumption, but also from work, and to allow ourselves time for some "brain recovery". This has been proven to improve the quality of our work and our private lives as well.

Cognitive Hygiene or Brain Recovery - What is it?

"Oops, someone's not feeling fresh in mind!" Perhaps you are still familiar with this sentence from the commercials. Mr. Berg took a sip of water and Hasi was saved. It's not quite that simple with cognitive hygiene, and yet we must learn to understand this kind of hygiene as being just as natural as regular personal hygiene. 

Cognitive hygiene or brain recovery is the term used to describe rest periods for the head or brain. Regular time-outs help us to focus our concentration in an increasingly complex working world and thus improve our work results. 

As part of the "New Work Trendbook" commissioned by Xing, 83 percent of the XING members surveyed said that their workload had increased as a result of digitization. However, only around half of those surveyed took the necessary time off - which demonstrably improves the quality of work. So when the proverbial head is spinning, only a few listen carefully and give themselves and their mental capacities the rest they need. 

Anyone who can remember their school days knows how agonizingly long 45-minute lessons sometimes felt and that the brain's absolute absorption capacity was reached in a double block of 90 minutes. Transferred to the working world, it is therefore of little use to work through without a break and to accumulate endless overtime. After all, it's the quality of the result that counts in the end. Regular time-outs help us to improve our concentration and, in addition, we can reach peak performance through brain recovery. Even 10 minutes are often enough for this.

Regular time-outs help us to focus our concentration.
Cognitive hygiene or brain recovery is the term used to describe rest periods for the head or brain.
Cognitive hygiene or brain recovery is the term used to describe rest periods for the head or brain.

We ourselves are responsible for our cognitive hygiene

Of course, employers, management, the leadership and the respective teams are responsible and accountable for creating framework conditions for healthy work and counteracting overload. In the classic office environment, the first thing that stands out here is the observance of break times and annual leave as important points. Coaching sessions to maintain mental performance are also measures that can be taken within the company. In the context of the home office, however, managers can often only exert a limited influence. Responsibility for one's own resources and cognitive hygiene is always in the hands of each individual. Those who are aware of this can improve their work results with simple measures. What follows from this is a higher level of satisfaction in everyday work - an improvement in the quality of life.

Our tips

  • Offer your brain new stimuli! Change your work location at certain intervals or for certain tasks, for example from the office to the kitchen table. This way you can stimulate your mental sensation and offer yourself a change.
  • Interrupt your mental work regularly with breaks! This way, you won't fall into mental rigidity and you'll deliver more accurate results. So while you're in the kitchen, why not brew up some tea?
  • During breaks, occupy yourself exclusively with things that have nothing to do with work. Completely switch off to recharge your batteries. Just turn on your favorite music while the tea is brewing and get some exercise after long periods of sitting.

The principle of regeneration has long been known and functional in other areas - for example in sports. Only those who give their own bodies time to recover and replenish their energy stores can build up muscle mass. This aspect - how cognitive hygiene affects physical health and vice versa - is something we will be looking at in depth in the coming weeks. But as you can see, brain recovery is also a real success factor for professional careers.

Finally, one more question: Have you taken a break today?

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