7 October 2015 | Herpreet Grewal
Workplaces should be designed to mitigate distractions and prime workers to better manage their attention, according to office furniture firm Steelcase.
The research by Beatriz Arantes, a senior researcher of workspace futures at Steelcase, said: "Attention is a precious resource that most workers manage rather poorly. The common approach to an overwhelming amount of work is to put in more hours and focus harder. But if you look at what research is telling us about the brain, it's clear that this approach is counterproductive.
"As the amount, sources and channels of information are increasing exponentially, our response to try harder to keep up with it. Yet this strategy is doomed, because our cognitive capacities are not growing. Our ability to pay attention is limited - especially high-quality attention that workers use to solve complex problems. Sustaining attention is very taxing for the brain, and so our minds will wander and refuse to cooperate, regardless of how much coffee is consumed."
Arantes suggested that "we need to occasionally let the mind wander so the brain can work subconsciously with stimuli in the environment to make connections and help solve a difficult problem. New information or a conversation with a colleague can bring needed inspiration".
She also recommended regular breaks and warned against multitasking.
The research is based on the metanalysis Steelcase conducted by combining findings from the papers below with their ongoing research on human behaviour at work.
Steelcase also collaborated with Canadian researchers to develop a measurement evaluation tool.
The research includes:
* Shelly Carson's "Your Creative Brain: Seven Steps to Maximize Imagination, Productivity and Innovation in Your Life."
* David Rock's "Your Brain at Work" + "Quiet Leadership".
* John Medina's "Brain Rules"
* Goleman's "Focus"
* Cathy Davidson's "Now You See It"
* Davidson's "The Emotional Life of Your Brain"
* Torkel Klingberg' "The Overflowing Brain"
* John J. Ratey "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" and "A User's Guide to the Brain"
* Don Norman's "Things That Make Us Smart: Defending Human Attributes in the Age of the Machine"