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Do leaders really need to care about employee brain health?

Caring about employee brain health is caring about business performance, because to do good work, we all need to think, learn and remember well.

Should you care about your employees’ brain health?

If you care about the future success of your organisation, the answer is a resounding yes, and not just because it’s what the millennials and generation Z’s expect, it makes sound business sense.

Because in a world experiencing information overload, rapidly escalating stress, and mental health issues, the employer who shows a genuine interest in the brain health and wellbeing of their staff will be more than adequately recompensed by increased productivity and performance and lower human business costs.

Employee brain health is about cognition – how well we think, learn and remember. No matter an individual’s role or job description we all need to think in order to do good work.

While the need for physical health and mental wellbeing goes without saying, better brain health is critical for better decision making, faster problem solving, greater resilience and effective adaptation to the rapidly changing work environment.

Optimising employee brain health is a means of ensuring everyone is capable of performing their role to the expected level. Being ‘Fit for Task’ reduces the risk of error, accident, mindless behaviour, or lack of judgement.Prioritising people management was reported by the High Performance Workplaces Index to lead to greater effectiveness and productivity.

What’s the ROI?

According to the Towers Watson and the National Business Group the cost savings of enhanced wellbeing and lower sick or stress leave costs alone equate to $1,600 per employee, while a meta analysis of 42 corporate wellness studies showed a 25% reduction in absenteeism and sick leave.

While these programs relate to addressing physical and mental wellbeing, adding in the cost benefits of greater cognitive health, the implication is this will lead to a reduction in errors and accidents, increased focus, increased levels of innovation, higher adaptability to change, and the implementation of new ideas. All of which can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line.

Improving employee brain health incorporates 3 tiers of action

  1. Address those lifestyle factors as demonstrated by the research to have a positive effect on productivity and performance, namely: “Eat, Move, Sleep and Healthy Stress”.
  2. Ensure current workplace practices promote good thinking by encouraging a mindful approach to different situations, to think more critically, to ask better questions and to challenge ways of thinking or doing that have been embraced just because “that’s the way we do things around here”.
  3. Create a brain-safe environment that promotes contribution and connection. As humans we thrive when able to work with others we consider like us, who value what we do and whom we feel will have our back to support us if things go wrong.

Better still, the technology is already available to provide a snapshot of an individual’s cognitive function enabling early intervention should a problem be detected, and reassurance in many instances for those who may be concerned that their level of stress may be impacting memory or cognitive function. For continuing business success in today’s modern world, attending to employee brain health is a must, not a discretionary, spend.

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