Spring is upon us, but employers might be wondering why, as the weather gets bright and sunny, workers seem to be dragging.
Brain science explains why. When we are low on energy, the first thing we lose is our "executive function" -- the part of our brain that affects our ability to focus, analyze information, regulate our emotions, be innovative, and make smart decisions.
Here are five ways to fuel your employees' executive function, elevate their energy levels, increase their performance, and give them a spring in their steps.
1. Make a micro-connection
People's energy levels are elevated through meaningful connection. Even within just two minutes, quality, face-to-face conversation releases high-performance hormones in the brain, decreasing stress, tension, and worry.
Energy-boosting tip: Rather than ask an employee how they are doing, ask them what they have planned in the coming months. For example, are they excitedly planning a weekend getaway with someone special, or are they preparing for a visit from the dreaded in-laws? The key is being present in the moment and showing genuine curiosity. Acknowledge what matters most to the other person. Then, share what matters most to you.
2. Dump the depleters
Like any technology, the brain has a limited amount of RAM; if too many "apps" are open at the same time, it will cease to function properly. When people's focus is continuously split between multiple cognitive tasks (such as trying to balance work with social planning), the effect is intense mental exhaustion.
Energy-boosting tip: Minimize distractions depleting employee energy. Even a simple to-do list can help reduce the "Oh, I'd better remember to do that!" kind of mental messages that tend to flare up at the most inopportune times, interrupting employees in the middle of flow.
3. Rewire energy
When negative feelings arise, this makes us not only less focused, but less likely to get things done. However, brain science shows us that there is a way to suppress and better control unwanted and unhelpful feelings.
Energy-boosting tip: Encourage your employees to meditate. Meditation helps strengthen the anterior cingulate, which is the "clutching mechanism" between the rational ("thinking") and emotional ("feeling") brain. Meditation is perfect for a quick energy boost, allowing people to get immediately back to the task at hand. As an idea for a team activity, bring in a yoga instructor for an hour.
4. Grow superior cells
Every day, our bodies slough off 300 billion old cells -- and grow 300 billion new ones. If the new cells are superior to the ones they are replacing, the body becomes more energized.
Energy-boosting tip: Put those truffle-filled office snacks away! Instead of offering sugar-coated goodies, bring in superior-cell food and drink for employees. Consider healthy fats like avocado and almonds; helpful carbs like squash, yams and carrots; and organic, colorful vegetables. Or, rather than going out for a fattening team lunch, why not hold a potluck -- and encourage everyone to bring their favourite healthy dish?
5. Install power generators
Our bodies consist of mitochondria, which are akin to micro-power plants embedded in the muscle tissue. A body with lean muscle mass will hold up to ten times more mitochondria than "soft" muscle mass. In other words, the leaner the body, the more energy a person will feel.
Energy-boosting tip: Share this 20-minute "mito-making workout" with your team. Start with five minutes of light stretching, followed by 30 seconds of burpees, and then rest for 90 seconds. Repeat five times. Then, cool down with five minutes of light stretching.
Of course, the above tips don't have to be only for the spring -- you can use them anytime throughout the year, when you start seeing employee productivity go down.
Brady Wilson is co-founder of Juice Inc., a corporate training company that services organizations from Toronto to Los Angeles. This article is based on principles from Brady's latest book, Beyond Engagement: A Brain-Based Approach That Blends the Engagement Managers Want with the Energy Employees Need. Follow Brady on Twitter (@BradyJuiceInc) or visit www.bradywilson.com.