At the beginning of February, I was fortunate enough to become the mother to a beautiful baby girl. Now, as my maternity leave has come to an end, I am also fortunate enough to be transitioning back into my work very smoothly.

A lot of employers may believe that supporting mothers returning to work starts the first day they get back, but this is a common misconception. Before returning, it is a great idea to be touching base with your employee – see how they’re feeling about coming back to work, how they’re feeling in general, and get a feel for how deep they want to dive back in upon their return. This mental health check-in can be so helpful for an employer to gain a real insight into what is going to be the best and smoothest way to support a mother as she transitions back into work mode.

This doesn’t mean, however, that employers should be consistently in contact. While a check-in should be essential, it is just as important to respect that time that the mother is away with their baby. Maternity leave can sometimes be misconstrued as vacation, but it isn’t by any means.

In terms of the actual period of return, the most important thing an employer can do is keep a open line of communication. Every mother is going to have a unique experience, and so the ability to offer flexibility is going to be so vital. Some mothers are going to need time to express if they are breastfeeding, and so it is important that for in-office work, there is a dedicated and private space for this to happen.

As well as this, it is fairly common for a mother’s mental health to be affected after giving birth. Around one in seven women can develop postpartum depression, and what is less talked about but is just as prevalent is that 10-15% of new mothers suffer from postpartum anxiety (which involves worrying all day, everyday that something is wrong or could be wrong with your baby, and this can lead to suffocating feelings of anxiety, panic attacks and the exhibition of agoraphobic tendencies). If an employer recognises signs of a new mother struggling with these conditions, or it has been communicated to them, it is important to have the right support in place – which could be an in-house employee assistance program – or to direct them to the right place for external support such as Mind and/or Postpartum Support International.

I think as a final point, employers must be vigilant to the biases and preconceived notions that come with a female worker becoming a mother. There is a shift that takes place, and it can sometimes feel like your identity and your place in a company enters a state of flux after returning from maternity leave. Opportunities can feel scarcer and harder to reach because of biases like, ‘oh, she won’t have time for that with the baby’ or ‘she’s got enough on her plate with the baby’. This is probably why 41% of working parents believed that being a parent was holding them back from a promotion at work. So, in this sense, it is important to look at the culture of an organization and ensure that these mindsets are not instilled or prevalent, and instead coach the perception that it is possible to exist as both a mother and a worker – the two are interlaced, they are not parallel.

Knowing how to properly support working parents means employers will know how to effectively optimize their performance and productivity right from the outset. The transition back to work is going to set a tone for the coming months, and so striving to make this smooth and easy for the mother (or parent) returning will pay off for both employer and employee. To discuss how to implement these strategies into your workplace, please get in touch with me at

After recently examining the reality of unlimited paid time off (PTO), it got me thinking about the concept of ‘time off work’ as a whole. Having true time off work would (or should) mean that for the time that an employee has opted to take off, their responsibilities should be covered by another member of staff. However, the reality is, when people take PTO, they find themselves either cramming to do the work they are going to miss before they go, or rushing to catch up when they return.

A new study from Pew Research Centre confirms this, as it found that 48% of US workers have vacation days that go unused, and 49% cited that this was because they were worried they might fall behind on work. Another survey discovered that 40% of men and 46% of women said that just thinking about the ‘mountain of work’ they would return to after a holiday was a major reason why they hadn’t used vacation days.

What we are seeing is that paid vacation is translating to ‘the days someone spends away from the office’, when it should be ‘the time someone spends away’. PTO is meant to be getting paid for a day where you would be working – but if employees are doing the work they would have missed before and after their time off, it defeats the purpose. This isn’t time away, it’s just a shifted schedule.

Having true time away from work is vital for the wellbeing of employees and for ensuring that the quality of their output remains strong for the organization. Research shows that nearly three quarters of people who take time off work report better emotional and physical health, happier relationships, and improved productivity.

So how can employers create a culture of true time away from work which allows people to remove themselves and return with ease?

  • Collaborate from the beginning – try not to have employees that are lone rangers on projects. A great way to think of this is by looking at theatre; every cast member will always have an understudy who knows how to do their role if need be. This same logic should be applied in the workplace, as it allows for developmental and mentoring opportunities for more junior staff members and relieves stress for the person taking time off.
  • Set communication boundaries – when someone is taking time off, boundaries need to be in place so that the employee taking time away doesn’t have to always be checking their phone for any work emergencies. This can be done from an IT perspective, by setting it up so that all work-related communications are blocked for that time off, and instead are being redirected to the person who is overseeing the employee’s work in their time away.
  • Briefing upon return – when an employee does come back to work, they should be coming back to a short, succinct brief from the person who has overseen their responsibilities to update them on the progress of their projects. This avoids the fear of returning to a mountain of work to do, and means that the employee has had the opportunity to truly disconnect, destress and enjoy their time away.
  • For smaller companies, it may be more difficult to have staff who can take over someone’s responsibilities. And so, it is very important in this instance to ensure that as an employer, you are recognising and rewarding your staff for taking the time to pre-prepare their work before their vacation. And while larger companies may have more people, this doesn’t cover up the fact that large companies can tend to have a more competitive culture, and so staff can sometimes be territorial over their work and not want someone to have the opportunity to take credit for it.

It is not all down to employers, however. Employees should try to plan their time off as much in advance as possible so that this transition can be as smooth for the company as it is for them.

If you would like to discuss PTO policies and workplace culture strategies, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at

From time to time, I’m sure all of us have been guilty of procrastinating. And if it is something that isn’t happening very often, then it doesn’t really do much harm.

However, in a world where remote working is continuously on the rise, being able to procrastinate is easier than ever. Resume-Now conducted a study which found that 42% of fully remote workers agreed that they got easily distracted when they were supposed to be working.

This is without the fact that, globally, an estimated 20% of adults are considered chronic procrastinators (this is defined as intentionally postponing a course of action despite knowing that this delay will have negative consequences).

This can be a cause for concern for employers, especially those with hybrid and remote working models. So how can they best respond to this and avoid a loss of productivity?

Firstly, understanding why people procrastinate is a great way of figuring out how to approach it. Neuroscientists have found that our brains battle between the limbic system (which controls our primal instincts) and the prefrontal cortex (which controls planning for the future). When strong emotions like anxiety or fear become overwhelming, our limbic systems can take charge, leading us to impulsively seek gratification in any immediate form, despite the consequences of doing so, i.e., falling behind on work or not meeting a deadline. Tim Urban simplified this idea in his popular TED talk, which described how we all have a ‘rational thinker’ that steers our thoughts, but procrastinators will also have an ‘instant gratification monkey’ which only wants to do fun things and doesn’t consider the drawbacks.

A lot of the time, chronic procrastination stems from feelings of overwhelm, stress and anxiety. If a manager notices an employee being less productive and missing deadlines consistently, this may be a sign that they are struggling and using procrastination as a short-term solution. One way to help solve this is through the introduction of microbreaks.  

A microbreak is essentially a five-minute break which allows an employee to rest their brain between tasks and take a moment for themselves. In a way, this would be employers actively encouraging procrastination, but in a more controlled and mental-health focused manner. If employees are being told to take microbreaks, they won’t find themselves feeling guilty because they wouldn’t consider it procrastinating. This shift in perception can make all the difference, and this is without the fact that microbreaks have been proven to improve engagement and productivity levels.

Another way employers can help staff ignore that pesky monkey is promoting the idea of segmenting their workdays. Cassie Holmes, an expert in time and happiness and author of Happier Hour, discusses the concept of employees dividing their day between ‘happy work’ (which is the work that fuels their passion and they enjoy doing) and ‘work-y work’ (the more repetitive, admin-like tasks). Managers can encourage those who tend to procrastinate to schedule specific time to do the parts of their job they love and the parts they may enjoy a little bit less. This way, the employee is less likely to feel guilty about ‘putting off’ the work-y work, because they know they already have specific time dedicated to doing it.

There isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all approach to responding to employee procrastination, and so it is important to consider various solutions. If you would like to discuss detailed strategies about boosting productivity and engagement and warding of procrastination monkeys, please get in touch with us.

Nutrition and Hydration Week is an important reminder that what we eat and drink play a huge part in both our physical and mental wellbeing.

There is a wealth of information available to us today to inform how our bodies and minds work best, and what we can do to keep ourselves healthy. Admittedly some of the information is conflicting, and some downright wrong, but there is scientific consensus around many areas and yet we do not capitalise enough on this knowledge.

Feuerbach said, ‘we are what we eat’, and we now know this to be very true. So how does this knowledge apply to the world of work?

Well, although the health and wellbeing of employees has increasingly become a priority for employers, the Health and Safety Executive found that in the year 2021 to 2022 the UK was still losing over 17-million working days to work-related stress, depression and anxiety.

Although progressive organizations are implementing initiatives to address workplace factors which are harmful to employees’ mental health, few are focused how we might increase our resilience to these factors. And here there are some basic human needs we can, and should, pay attention to, including sleep, hydration, exercise, rest, and nutrition.

Ignoring these basic needs comes at a high cost to our health – today and in the future – which means that to optimize their wellbeing strategies, organizations should increasingly be promoting the importance of maintaining and improving physical and mental health.

While maintaining of the brain, hydrating of the body, and looking after the health of one’s gut may all sound like knowledge reserved for medical professionals, all these things can have noticeable effects on an employee’s productivity, engagement, and emotional state. And all are inextricably interlinked.

Mental and physical health can no longer be looked at in isolation from each other. For example, your gut health can play a very big role in the health and optimization of the brain – which has a direct effect on your mental health.

This is because all of us have a ‘gut-brain axis’. The two are connected both biochemically (the gut provides around 95% of the body’s serotonin, which controls feelings of happiness and wellbeing), and physically by the vagus nerve which connects more than 100 million nerve cells in the gut lining directly to the brain stem.

Because of this link, scientists have suggested that mental wellbeing is impacted by the health of the gut microbiome – a complex community of trillions of bacteria which and can vary enormously from person to person. And as the health of an individual’s gut biome is directly related to the food and drink we consume, a balanced diet can help maintain mental as well as physical wellbeing. 

Just like the gut, the brain needs to be nourished and cared for. If this is done correctly, then this has been proven to help improve energy levels, sharpen focus, reduce brain fog, strengthen memory and keep one’s mood balanced.

One of simplest and most effective ways of supporting our brains each day is through drinking sufficient water. Studies have found that as little as 1-2% body water loss directly affects the brain and can lead to cognitive impairment. Not making time to drink some water when working can quickly start to reduce mental focus and create muddled thinking.

So, what can employers do? Making sure you have fresh water readily available at workplaces is one thing, but we are working in a hybrid world now, so we need to support our employees’ wellness wherever they work.

Whilst it may seem counterintuitive in our ‘always on’, ‘always busy’, ‘do more work with less people’ working lives, employers should be encouraging (or in some organisations they are trying mandating) employees to take adequate breaks to rehydrate, eat and take some rest.

This should be seen as the gold standard if we want a healthy, engaged, energized, and productive workforce. Better for employees, customers, the organization, and society.

If employers seek to understand how to properly support the mind and body health of their employees, then they will be rewarded by employees working at their optimum.

This might start with encouraging ‘nudges’ such as free water bottles, but fundamentally we need to address what we know about basic human needs when designing work.

With Gallup’s State of the Global Workforce report finding only 21% of workers are engaged with their work, or feel cared about by their employers, this would be a great time to consider all the benefits that a proactive approach to employee wellness has to offer.

If you would like to speak about this topic in more detail and discuss potential wellbeing strategies, please get in touch with us here!

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Eating disorders can be a very taboo topic that have a lot of incorrect connotations, and because of this, many employers may not consider them to be a cause for concern in the workplace.

But the reality of eating disorders is that they affect around 1.25 million people in the UK, and almost 30 million in the US. Most assume they are something that are exclusive to teenage girls, but surprisingly they are known to affect adults more than younger people, with 25% of sufferers being men. Therefore, it is very likely that some employees may be suffering silently, and this can lead to a sudden increase in absences and a dip in productivity.

However, it can be hard to identify those who are at risk, as most people with an eating disorder are not visibly underweight. This is because we tend to associate ‘eating disorders’ with anorexia, but there are many other easily-concealed ones, such as bulimia, binge eating and ‘other specified feeding or eating disorder (OSFED)’.

So, what are the signs and what should employers be doing?

There are a range of symptoms that an employee may be exhibiting which can indicate that they are struggling with an eating disorder:

  • Feeling anxiety/stress around food – this can take the form of not wanting to eat with others, obsessively calorie counting/exercising, constantly eating, or avoiding having to see their own image (wanting to have their camera off during meetings).
  • Withdrawing from social situations – usually these situations revolve a lot around food and drink, so avoiding them allows a person to have more control over their diet.
  • Routine and stability at work – people with eating disorders tend to be perfectionists and may struggle to cope with sudden change as this could not be predicted and planned for.
  • Increased absence – those who suffer from any of these disorders are likely to have poorer health as they can have a compromising effect on the immune system.

If a member of staff or a manager begins to notice any of these signs, paired with a change in productivity and engagement, then the best approach would be for the suspected person’s line manager to set up a one-to-one meeting with them.

Ensure that the conversation is centred around their affected performance, and then ask them why this might be. If a manager goes in trying to diagnose someone with an eating disorder, this can either make the person feel like they are being accused of something, or there may be an entirely different reason for their sudden change in behavior. Let them lead the conversation and the issue will organically come to light.

If they do discover that the person is indeed struggling with an eating disorder, be sure to reassure them as an employer that you want to support them, not judge them. The manager can then signpost them to a GP or an external source of support, such as Beat (UK based) or National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA, US based).

If you would like to discuss how we can help boost productivity through the implementation of policies around mental wellbeing in your workplace, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

By Brittany Burton and Victoria Sprenger

Once upon a time, three young women found themselves struggling at work. Tired, isolated, and cold, the three were in need of support from their employers during these trying times:

“Burnout Beauty”

The first of our tales follows a young professional named Aurora. In wake of her company’s compensation review, their team had let some members go, and she now found herself working out-of-hours in order to ensure she was deemed a reliable employee.

But not too long passed before Aurora noticed she was starting to burnout. And she wasn’t alone – the effects of this ‘always-on’ culture have led to 43% of global workers also experiencing burnout.

She found herself feeling exhausted, fighting off the need for a workday nap, but didn’t want to admit to this in case it made her look incapable.

How can Aurora’s employer help her?

Firstly, they may consider the implementation of policies that will remove outside hours correspondence to help to set boundaries around constant contact. This attitude then needs to be embedded into the culture of her workplace, so that it becomes more than just a policy, but also a commonly held mindset.

As well as this, her line-manager should be setting up regular one-to-one’s which are solely dedicated to hearing what she has to say. Having this time to discuss her individual needs and concerns will help her employer to understand what support they can offer her, as well as highlighting that they value her wellbeing.

“Beauty and the Bricks”

Our next tale is about Belle, a fresh-out-of-university employee who has just started her first job, which is full-time remote working.

At first, she loves it. The freedom, the flexibility; she felt like her organization truly trusted her, and she didn’t disappoint them. But after a few months, she began to notice a sense of detachment – Belle was lonely.

81% of younger workers also expressed genuine concerns about loneliness over the prospect of working fully remotely. It was difficult to make connections, and sometimes, Belle even found herself talking to the clocks and the candles.

So, what can Belle’s employer do to support her?

When a company is fully remote, it is important that they plan regular in-person gatherings. These could be on a quarterly basis, and can be purpose-driven or simply for team building. Either way, having these events will help foster a sense of connection amongst employees, and can act as a better ice breaker than a Zoom call.

It is also important with remote work to try and recreate those ‘water-cooler’ moments as much as possible. With the only interaction being pre-set meetings with a pre-set agenda, it is difficult and awkward to find time to just simply chat, catch-up and leave room for natural ideas to form. Promote the idea of setting up meetings with no particular goal in mind to recreate that space for creative idea exchanges, as well as chances for people to get to know their colleagues that little bit better.

As well as this, employers should encourage their team to not be afraid to get creative with where they decide to work remotely from!

“No More Glass Slippers”

Lastly, we have Ella. With the inflation rates soaring to 11.1% and perpetuating the cost-of-living crisis, she finds herself struggling to stretch her paycheck far enough to pay bills, eat, and keep the heating on to stave off the winter. Not to mention the pets.

Ella hasn’t had much experience supporting herself financially, and so her spending habits have been sporadic at times. She even resorted to selling her favorite glass slippers on Poshmark for the extra cash.

How can Ella’s employer help her through these trying times?

In a time of economic uncertainty, many companies are also struggling to find the means of offering their staff more money. But there are a range of different things companies can do to help shave off costs for their employees here and there.

For example, employers could consider moving to more remote work to help people like Ella save money on commuting. If this isn’t possible, then offering a loan for a yearly travel pass that the employee pays back monthly can make travel a lot more affordable – and it also means that they are saving money with their energy bills by being out of their house.

Promoting the use of apps that help younger workers like Ella to track spending habits and expenses can also make a big difference – knowing how to use your money effectively is a skill that needs nurturing, and apps like Mint can be very effective at teaching this.

Right now, leaders are having to deal with new issues emerging from all corners of their company. And so, to ensure that employees like Aurora, Belle and Ella get their happily ever after’s, don’t hesitate to get in contact with us about any HR-related concerns you might be having, as we would love to share our magic.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Dissociation is a way the mind copes with stress – and it is a way more common problem than most employers think, with up with to 75% of people experiencing a dissociative episode at some point.

In fact, even if you have never heard of dissociation, you will almost certainly have seen its impact on colleagues, and maybe even experienced it yourself!

There are a number of ways dissociation can manifest itself, and all of them have a negative impact on an individual’s performance and productivity:

  • Depersonalisation – the feeling of being outside yourself, watching actions, thoughts, and feelings from a distance.
  • Derealisation – the people and things around you may seem "lifeless" or "foggy".
  • Amnesia – not being able to remember information, past events, or even a learned talent or skill.

The stress and trauma caused by the pandemic triggered an increase in the levels of dissociation across the population creating a mental health legacy which is now being felt in the workplace. And the problem with this is that many misinterpret a dip in productivity as someone doing less – when they may actually need support.

So how can employers prevent dissociative episodes from impacting productivity?

The best place to start is awareness. By educating leaders and line-managers about dissociation and how to recognise it in themselves and their direct reports, you can begin to understand the issue and how it might be affecting your organization.

You can also share some simple methods for coping with dissociative episodes, for example, breathing exercises, stimulation toys, or music. There are many different grounding methods for bringing someone out of an episode and back into reality, but what works for each individual will be unique to them.

Having these conversations openly will help those who may not know how to cope with their dissociative symptoms, as well as contribute to eradicating the wider stigma around mental health. It will see productivity and engagement levels rise again, all the while strengthening the relationships between leaders and their teams.

If you would like to discuss training around dissociation and preventing it from affecting employee productivity, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Recently, I was out with a friend, and she mentioned how she hadn’t been into work that day. I asked her why she didn’t go, and she told me, “I just wasn’t having a good mental health day, so I called in sick.”

When I asked if she’d told them the truth about her mental health, she said she’d claimed a physical illness because she was embarrassed.

And this got me thinking. With almost 8 out of 10 organizations (79%) reporting that mental health is a major driver of workplace absence, how can employers take steps to tackle the issue if employees are lying about feeling mentally fit to work?

I started looking into whether other people were doing this, and the answers echoed that of my friend’s.

Slater and Gordon discovered that 55% of employees who took mental health days claimed to be physically unwell for fear of being judged, demoted, or sacked.

According to a global report published by Aetna International, more than half of employees (52%) diagnosed with mental health issues admitted to lying to their employer about taking a sick day. It also found that those with an undiagnosed mental health condition were more likely to lie about being sick due to stress (45%) and ‘feeling down’ (42%).

The pandemic brought the mental health crisis – and the real effects it had on business – to the forefront. With nearly 80% of workers saying that having access to mental health services would make them more productive, as well as 64% adding that they would be more attracted to a company that offered these, businesses have responded.

In the US, nearly 23% of workers say their employer has introduced new mental health support, and in the UK, YouGov found that 59% of large employers were offering mental health services.

All of which means that the challenge is now one of trust. Mental health can be a tricky discussion – but when employees are lying about it, there is no ‘discussion’ to be had.

So, if you are a business who would like to find out how the introduction of mental health support can drive employee performance and productivity, or how you can open up the conversation about mental health at work, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Imposter syndrome has sadly been a popular term going around recently. After having to navigate working through a pandemic and now adapting to the new normal of hybrid and remote work, many employers and employees have found themselves feeling somewhat out of their depth. A YouGov survey of 2,500 UK workers found imposter syndrome to be one of the most common mental health issues in the contemporary workplace, with nearly three in five (58%) of employees experiencing it. Similarly, a study in the US found that 65% of professionals suffered from imposter syndrome. The prevalence of this feeling in today’s world means that this is no longer something that we should label as a problem predominantly facing women.

But where do these feelings stem from? And how can employers aid those who find themselves questioning whether they deserve to be in their position?

Feeling like an imposter can be brought on by a number of things, but these can be filed under two main factors – internal and external.

Internal imposter syndrome is in reference to those who suffer from anxiety and self-doubt, sometimes on a debilitating level, that is triggered by the individual’s internalized stories. They will lack the confidence to speak up because they are constantly second-guessing themselves and their capability, and this mindset can fester and grow as time goes on. Often times, it will be newer hires who have fallen short or made a mistake upon starting, and in their attempt to be mentally tough and analyse what they did wrong, they can end up planting a seed of doubt that blooms over time.

External imposter syndrome examines the environment someone is entering. Many employers will look at hiring more diverse candidates to bring in new and fresh perspectives, but these candidates can find themselves feeling like imposters if they are entering into a culture that has been set in its ways for a while and they repeatedly find themselves being ‘shut down’. In this sense, this is a sign that the culture needs to begin evolving to incorporate new ways of thinking so that everyone can benefit from it.

Regardless of what has provoked these feelings, a growth mindset approach to both can help tremendously with combatting this ideology of self-doubt. If its internal, leaders can coach their employees who are suffering, or refer them to an external coach, who can help to recalibrate the way they perceive themselves and their capabilities – spinning the idea on its head to go from, ‘why don’t I know this’ to ‘I don’t know this yet, what can I do to accelerate my learning and development in this area? ’. The label ‘imposter’ can be a harmful one and carries heavy connotations that are not usually applicable – you are not an imposter if you don’t know how to do everything, and that’s completely fine. It can be as simple as reminding staff that they were hired for a reason, so they have already earned their place at the table. Another great way of getting this across is by regular acknowledgment of contribution and feedback – reassurance from those that work above you can go a very long way.

This same logic can be applied to external imposter syndrome. If you have hired someone to bring in a fresh perspective on a new market, for example, then naturally their ideas are going to vary. To avoid making them feel alienated from the get-go, you can explore ways to allow for new ideas to be brought forward. A few ideas include:

  • Asking all members of the team to brainstorm new options, perhaps anonymously to remove any element of bias.
  • Use de Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats.
  • Or be inspired by Julia Dahr’s TED Talk that encourages us to learn from debate tactics!

This also allows time for the culture to organically adapt to changes.

It's important for any employer to recognise that anyone who finds themselves in a new position – regardless of their hierarchical position – may begin to feel like an imposter of sorts. If you ensure that you have an inclusive culture that encourages communication, then employees will feel comfortable in seeking some support for the way they are feeling. Having coached many executives who have experienced these feelings of doubt, I know first-hand how important it is to address this before it becomes embedded. If you need further guidance on how to approach imposter syndrome in your workplace, you can get in touch with me at

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

Remote work seems to be here to stay. And if that is the case, then so are the burgeoning social challenges that accompany it.

As it stands, around 14% of UK workers are exclusively remote, with nearly double that proportion in the US at 26%. And what seems to be emerging is a growing sense of loneliness and isolation amongst these workers, as well as a significant lack of social interaction.

A survey by Statista found that after at-home distractions, a lack of social interaction with colleagues and feeling isolated/lonely were tied as the second highest challenge of remote work, with 35% of respondents citing either as their main struggle.

If you delve deeper, it also becomes apparent that these issues are affecting younger workers more severely. Chargifi did a study across the UK and the US and found that 81% of those aged under 35 would feel more isolated without time in the office, and 70% of them fear missing out on opportunities to socialise if remote work becomes the permanent norm.

If the new normal is remote work, then this requires organizations to push the boundaries of what that really means and help employees find innovative ways to solve these feelings of isolation.

Here are some creative ways employers can encourage their remote workers to get the social interaction they need:

  • Public Outdoor Spaces

This is a weather-dependant option, but it is well known that getting some fresh air has many physical and mental health benefits, including giving your brain more energy and making your thinking sharper. Public parks, gardens and beaches are all lovely days out, but there’s no reason why someone can’t set up their laptop and work surrounded by like-minded nature lovers and the sound soothing waves and beautiful blooms.

  • Pubs/Bars/Cafes  

This is one of the most popular options. There is always a lively ambience in a pub or café, and many people find working in these environments much more mentally stimulating. This is largely due to the psychological effect known as social facilitation, in which a person’s performance will improve due to being in the presence of other people. For UK employers, encouraging your remote workers to set up shop in a Wetherspoons could benefit them financially, as the chain offers free refills on tea and coffee all day, and will help ease the effects of cost of living by saving on electricity usage.

  • Airports/Train Stations

A slightly unconventional place, but perfect when looking at the social facilitation effect mentioned above. The hustling and bustling of people can actually help, with ‘background noise’ known to improve cognitive function and focus. And the constant sea of new faces can reduce an individual’s feelings of isolation.

  • Fast Food Restaurants

Across both the UK and the US, the beauty of fast-food restaurants during typical working hours are that they tend not to be too loud, they offer free WiFi, and have affordable lunch options. Whether it is burgers, tacos, or fried chicken, being in an environment with other people can make someone feel less alone.

  • Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are becoming an increasingly popular option for companies that are fully remote. These comprise of office spaces that can be rented, where your staff will work alongside remote workers from other organizations and have the opportunity to interact and build relationships. It allows for the ‘office feel’ without having to actually rent an entire office block, so it is cost effective and will likely increase the wellbeing of your workers. Alternatively, encouraging employees to set up remote working hubs with friends who also work remotely allows for them to create small, sub-cultures at work where they are surrounded by friendly faces and can stimulate their socialising needs.

Remote work can very easily become lonely, and if employers are adept in responding to this then they can continue to reap the financial and wellness benefits it has to offer. As a company that operates fully remotely, we are experts in offering in-depth guidance on how to mitigate the challenges that remote work can bring, so for strategic guidance on this topic, you can get in touch with us here.

Copyright OrgShakers: The global HR consultancy for workplace transformation founded by David Fairhurst in 2020

5. Reduce anxiety

Anxiety is known to be harmful to the brain, but how? Some anxiety is normal in us all, but evidence exists that individuals who experience long term and sustained anxiety are 48% more likely to develop cognitive decline. This is due to cortisol, the stress hormone, which if present over the long-term damages parts of the brain involved in memory and complex thinking.

In 2020/21, depression or anxiety accounted for 50% of all work-related ill health, so focusing on reducing anxiety in the workplace will have huge beneficial effects for  employees, the organisation and society. Educating staff around techniques to minimize stress or to ‘reframe’ their perception of stress and make it positive are great ways of helping to reduce angst, as well as offering subscriptions to mental wellness apps such as Calm or great online platforms such as LibratumLife.

However, it is not all up to the employee. Additionally, organisations can help reduce anxiety in their employees by creating a culture of Psychological Safety where people can speak openly; by training and developing Leaders in Emotional Intelligence and encouraging supportive conversations; and by sponsoring employees to become Mental Health First Aiders.

Anxiety and stress are at an all-time high in the midst of the cost-of-living crisis, and so now more than ever helping manage anxiety should be a prime focus for employers who want to keep their workforce healthy and reduce burn-out and sickness absence.

6. Keep on Learning

The concept of lifelong learning is one that you may be familiar with. Developing new skills, learning new information and remaining curious can all help towards reducing cognitive decline. Remaining alert and interested in the world around you is one excellent way to keep the neurons in your brain firing and active.

Offering learning and development opportunities in the workplace is a great investment in your people and your business. Whilst it may be tempting to turn off the development tap at times of financial difficulty, it can be a false economy in the longer term.

There have also been many discussions about the efficacy of ‘brain training’. To date, there are many apps and other products which claim to help stave off cognitive decline. The jury is still out with most of these. MyCognition is worth a look as it has been developed in conjunction with the University of Cambridge and with support from the NHS. The best results for any brain training interventions seem to be achieved with regular usage over longer term rather than as a quick fix.

7. Ensure regular mental stimulation

Many researchers believe the key to maintaining a healthy brain is the habit of staying mentally active. This idea of more mental stimulation may seem counter-intuitive to many people already feeling mentally submerged by their current workload. However, the brain responds best to having a variety of different stimuli not just sitting on Virtual meetings or in front of a PC all day.

When thinking about mental stimulation, it can help to think of your brain as a muscle. The more you are exercising it the stronger it gets, but you need to exercise your brain as you would your body, with variety and care.

The efficacy of mental activity is improved by having a variety of different ways to stretch our brain. Making time away from work to listen to music, walk in nature, paint, play chess, or just do a crossword puzzle all stimulates our brains in different ways. Our brains need this variety to feel refreshed.

As employers, we need to be cognisant of this need for stimulation when we plan the activities of our employees. The key is giving a variety of work, giving time for rest, having adequate time to think and plan – these are great ways to ensure optimum brain health, better quality thinking and higher quality output.

Neuroscientists will tell you that the ability to multi-task is a myth as the brain uses a great deal of energy through activity switching, and that focusing on one key activity at a time is the key to quality thinking. Encouraging this kind of focused working, interspersed with rest breaks and time to let your mind wander, creates the optimum conditions for your brain to function.

As an employer, offering access to a variety of stimulating work and work which uses different ways of thinking can be really helpful. Encouraging people to take a real break and think about something else is also vital as this helps improve their brain health and can lead to them returning to their previous work task with a fresher headspace.

8. Actively seek out social contact

Social interaction can have profound effects on your health and longevity. In fact, there is evidence that strong social connections may be just as important as physical activity and a healthy diet. Strong social interactions can help protect your memory and cognitive function in several ways as you age. Research shows that people with strong social ties are less likely to experience cognitive decline than those who are alone. By contrast, depression, which often goes hand in hand with loneliness, correlates to faster cognitive decline.

Whether you class yourself as an extrovert or an introvert, having a network of people who support and care for you can help lower your stress levels. Additionally, social activities require you to engage several important mental processes, including attention and memory, which can bolster cognition.

Many people find this social contact in their community, their family and friends. But we also spend a great deal of our time working.

We are social animals for whom frequent engagement with others helps strengthen and develop our brain’s neural networks, and this emphasises the importance of promoting a sociable culture in the workplace. For those working in hybrid and remote settings, ensuring that there is time for consistent informal, as well as formal, catch-ups is a way of reducing the feeling of isolation at work.

Final thoughts…

In summary, the brain is an important organ and needs our support!

How we are working today is often unhealthy for our bodies and our minds and not in keeping with how our brains are designed to run best. We are not super computers and respond badly to being ‘switched on’ for long periods of time and to constant repetitive work which does not offer us a variety of mental stimulation.

But treated right, our brains are far superior to computers in terms of creativity, in imagining that which has not been done yet and in problem solving in the most lateral of ways.  

There are many things that employers can do to help their employees maintain healthy brains – and a great place to start is to lead by example. Cognitive decline is not inevitable and making some changes to old habits, as well as incorporating new ones, can pay great dividends in terms of productivity and quality of output at work in the longer term. To discuss how you can begin to incorporate brain health into your organization, or to learn more about Emotional Intelligence Training, Psychological Safety or any of the interventions mentioned in our two part article, please do get in touch with me at

Whilst we may focus on maintaining the health of our bodies, we tend to pay less attention (if any) to the health of our brains. Maybe it’s because we cannot actually see how healthy or not our brains are; but helping maintain brain health should be one of the top priorities for employers in order to ensure they have a healthy, high-performing workforce.

Mental health is quite rightly a priority for many employers. That said, many strategies are aimed at fixing issues rather than trying to prevent them in the first place. Brain health is focused on supporting the continued wellness of the brain structure itself – the ‘hardware’. In turn, taking care of the health of our brain ensures great foundations for good mental health by preventing or reducing cognitive decline.

Interestingly, there is still very little known about the brain. We have some idea of how it functions and some ideas about what it needs for optimum health but there is still so much to learn. I describe the mind as the ‘undiscovered country’ – much like the deepest oceans and the furthest reaches of our galaxies.

The fascinating thing about the brain is that we now know that it is not fixed, it is capable of growing new cells (a process called neurogenesis), and so it can consistently benefit from daily stimulation throughout our lives.

We also know that the brain is capable of changing its activities in response to stimuli and that we are capable of learning new things throughout our lives, as well as adapting and changing our thinking to a much greater degree than previously thought. So you can teach an old dog new tricks! The brain’s ability to change its neural networks, to flex and adapt how it operates despite aging, is known as neuroplasticity. Employees in their mid-life are just as valuable and capable as their younger counterparts, so long as they are working in an environment of stimulation and so long as they undertake activities and practices that nourish their brain.

So, on the topic of brain health and nourishment, let me share with you some different ways that you can encourage and support your staff, as well as undertake for yourself, to maintain optimum brain health:

1. Get sufficient sleep

Getting consistent, good-quality sleep is known to improve overall health and prevent cognitive decline. Our bodies rely on a certain amount of regular sleep for a variety of essential functions, many of them in the brain. A study on the relationship between sleep deprivation and cognitive decline found that people who sleep less or more than the recommended seven to eight hours a night exhibited a more noticeable decline than those sleeping 7 hours per night.

As simple as it sounds, employers need to make sure staff are properly rested. Sleep is fundamental for the brain to function properly and will help to massively reduce the risk of burnout. A well-rested employee is 30% more productive and 40% more creative, which means that your overall output will be stronger if your staff are sleeping better.

2. Exercise

There are many neurological benefits that come from physical activity, and these include decreased stress levels, increased focus, improved memory and better blood circulation. While people will exercise for a variety of reasons, few people do it with the intent to improve their brain functioning.

Exercise can help ward off cognitive decline, and some studies have shown that engaging in a program of regular exercise improved cognitive function in people who already had memory problems. Exercise may be particularly advantageous for people who carry the APOE4 gene variant, which makes people more susceptible to Alzheimer’s disease.

While exercising, oxygen saturation occurs in areas of the brain associated with rational thinking as well as social, physical, and intellectual performance. Additionally, exercise reduces stress hormones and increases the number of neurotransmitter chemicals like serotonin and norepinephrine, which are known to accelerate information processing.

What is incredible is that you are able to target and enhance a specific element of brain health through exercise:

  • For concentration: yoga, tai chi, aerobic classes;
  • For memory: aerobics, walking, and cycling;
  • To improve blood circulation: cardio activities (walking, riding a bicycle, running, swimming);
  • For stress and anxiety: yoga;
  • For depression: aerobic and resistance training.

Even people who engage in smaller forms of exercise, like gardening, are less likely to suffer from age-related neurological conditions. If intense exercise is not for you, gentle exercise can bring your brain a breath of oxygen-rich air. Much of the scientific community agrees that walking is one of the best and most accessible forms of physical activity, and gentle on the joints. It is therefore worth considering offering physical health memberships for employees, as keeping staff physically and mentally fit with increase their productivity.

3. Limit your consumption of Alcohol

Balance and moderation are key here. There is some evidence that low levels of alcohol consumption can reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. One study found that people over the age of 65 who drank up to one alcoholic beverage a day had about half the risk of cognitive decline as non-drinkers over a period of five to seven years.

We do know that a heavy consumption of alcohol can have damaging effects on the body and brain. When a person drinks to excess the liver cannot filter alcohol quickly enough and this can lead to long-lasting effects on the neurotransmitters in the brain, destroying brain cells and shrinking brain tissue.

The precise effect on the brain depends on the individual’s overall health, how much they drink and how well their liver functions. So, whilst the jury is still out on any benefits from light drinking, heavy drinking has definitely been proven to be damaging to the brain.

4. Manage your diet

Although there remains ambiguity around micro-dosing with alcohol, we do know that what you choose to eat can have a great effect on the health of your brain. A Mediterranean diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and olive oil, and includes moderate amounts of fish, poultry, and dairy products, while limiting red meat. This eating pattern has long been recognized as promoting better cardiovascular health, lowering the risk of certain cancers, and there is evidence to suggest that it can also contribute to protecting against cognitive decline.

Recent extensive studies have shown that consumption of oily fish is particularly associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment. The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil certainly play important roles in brain function and development. We also need to ensure that we are getting sufficient vitamins B6, B12, and Vitamin E in our diets.

And considering that the brain is circa 60% water, there is also a strong case for keeping ourselves hydrated. If water levels are too low, our brains cannot function effectively and must work harder than normal to complete everyday tasks. Dehydration can lead to confusion, drowsiness and memory loss so staying hydrated is vital. Research has shown that as little as 1% dehydration can negatively affect your mood.

To incorporate these findings into the workplace, it is good to offer balanced, healthy food when at work, as well as having multiple water coolers or means to remain hydrated. Having a vending machine that is filled with healthy snacks as opposed to fatty, sugary foods is a great little change that can be made to help promote healthy snacking.

Tomorrow, we will be posting the second part to this article, which outlines a further four things you can be doing to maintain your brain health.

In the meantime, if you would like to get in touch with me, you can email me at

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