The brain is a hungry organ, it’s cells requiring two times the amount of energy than that of other cells in the body. To work well and efficiently throughout the day, this energy level must be kept high enough so not to cause mental stress and exhaustion.
So we’ll look at simple ways to keep your brain working effectively throughout your day so your work doesn’t suffer. When the brain doesn’t become stressed it can work continuously so not to sabotage your daily workflow. For this discussion we will assume you work most of the day, morning to evening.
It’s no secret this is the most important meal of the day. We all know it, but how many of us take it to heart. We’re too busy right? It’s OK, there are shortcuts.
Coffee in the morning sounds like a good idea. The boost is fairly instantaneous for a few reasons. Firstly, the caffeine. Caffeine does increase the capacity for mental and physical labor. However, this is short lived, with a demanding drop of energy caused not long after. Do you drink a few cups before the morning’s end?
Sugar also plays a part in the morning coffee. However, this sugar is part of the simple carbohydrates family which does fuel the brain, but only for a short period of time. What we want to get early in the morning is some complex carbohydrates.
Fruit is an excellent source. Instead of a short burst of energy these carbohydrates have long chains of sugar molecules that the body breaks down gradually, releasing glucose to fuel the brain over time.
If you’re strapped for time in the morning, as we all tend to be, a bowl of fruit is a much better energy source that will start the brain working. Mental exercise drains glucose, so feeding your glucose level throughout the day, with fruit, is a great way to keep energy levels up all day. Watery and crunchy fruits are low in calories and can be eaten all day, any time. Berries and citruses are highest in complex carbohydrates and also antioxidents which reduce the risk of cognitive impairment.
Later on in the morning something with more protein, a cereal, will do the same to keep energy in the brain all day. A piece of toast or sandwich does the same, directly improving memory and attention.
A cereal with fruit is a very quick and easy breakfast to kick start your day. With productivity in mind, we want to spend little time preparing food at the beginning of our day, so we can enter work-mode as soon as possible.
As mentioned earlier, breads and fruits do well. Vegetables do much of the same good as fruit. Glucose levels alter during cooking so sticking to a salad may be better. Think about adding an egg to the mix. Egg yolk is a leading source for choline, a nutrient that, recently, has been proven to boost brainpower by speeding up the sending of signals to nerve cells in the brain.
If possible, a larger lunch is better than a big dinner; use your time after work to rest and eat lightly. Although you could prepare for the next 6-8 hours of fasting – otherwise known as sleep – by stocking up on food, this can disrupt your sleep. A lighter meal before bed will lead to an easier and deeper sleep. Stick to a good breakfast and lunch to get keep you fed.
Fish is high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which builds gray matter and cell membranes. Reportedly, these fats can also help emotional balance and a positive attitude throughout life. And you already know, stay away from junk food.
Ending lunch with a yogurt helps produce neurotransmitters, improving signals amongst neurons. Complementing this with nuts [particularly walnuts] balance omega-3 acids with omega-6’s while neutralizing blood sugar levels.
While eating food for the brain, it is important to keep hydrated. At least 80 ounces of water every day reduce stress hormones. Drinking non-caffeinated tea, like green tea, relaxes the brain and induces mental alertness. A juice, such as grapefruit juice, has the same affects for the brain as fruits and vegetables along with the hydration benefits.
While softdrinks provide that quick boost of sugar, it won’t last and will lead to a noticeable decline in brain energy later in the day. After drinking [or eating] something high in sugar, your pancreas starts to secrete insulin which triggers cells throughout your body to pull the excess glucose out of your bloodstream and store it. This sucks glucose from the brain which leaves it without energy, known as hypoglycemia. As a result your ability to focus decreases, leaving you weak and confused, unable to think properly.
Moderate alcohol consumption enhances blood and oxygen flow to the brain. This isn’t an immediate improvement, so don’t try and convince your boss drinking before work will improve your workflow. However, at the end of the day, a glass or two can relax the brain and ease yourself into the end of the day. Gradually, and most importantly, moderately, alcohol consumption has various mental benefits.
Moderation is the key. They say nothing is bad for you if done in moderation, so there isn’t a need for a huge change in your diet. What you may realize is your diet lacks many foods that stimulate mental growth and productivity. If you’re sluggish in the morning, there is definitely room for improvement.
Enhance brain power with a an increase in these foods that keep your brain running on high, and slow down on the others. Fruit’s cheap, put a bowl next to the mouse.
At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.
Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.
One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.
When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.
So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.
Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day
This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.
Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.
When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.
Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity
One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.
Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.
An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.
When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.
Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day
Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.
We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.
By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.
Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment
While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.
I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.
You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.
Con #1: We Move a Lot Less
When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.
Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.
Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.
Con #2: Less Human Interaction
One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.
Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.
Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.
This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.
While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.
Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment
Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.
This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.
For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.
Con #4: Unique Distractions
Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.
For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.
To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.
Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.
We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.
More About Working From Home
- 10 Tips to Help You Be More Efficient Working From Home
- 7 Ways To Supercharge Your Productivity When You Work From Home
- 10 Work from Home Desks to Boost Your Productivity