Prefrontal Productivity: Or How to Keep Stress from Eating Your Brain
By Chris Dunne
Productivity is crucial in today’s business world. In business we are doing more with fewer people and less resources than ever before. The cost of doing business is soaring, yet the pressure to trim more and more fat from budgets can get to the best of us.
The end result of this conflict between demand and resources is stress. According to the Global Organization for Stress, it’s becoming a global pandemic.
- 75% of adults experienced moderate to high levels of stress
- Almost 50% reported their stress levels have increased in the past year
- 80% of workers feel stress on the job
- Depression is one of the main causes of disability worldwide, yet fewer than 25% of those suffering depression have access to proper treatment
The cost to business from stress-induced illness can be staggering. According to the same article, “pproximately 13.7 million working days are lost each year in the UK as a result of work-related illness at a cost of £28.3 billion per year.”
But the dangers of unchecked stress go even further than sick days and skyrocketing insurance costs. A recent study by a group of psychologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shows that stress can affect the prefrontal cortex of the brain–that part of our grey matter that helps you retain and remember information.
If the prefrontal cortex is a chalkboard that records, erases, and rerecords current information, then stress can resemble doodles, scribbles, and other distractions on that chalkboard. It rather than suppressing the activity of the brain, as researchers previously thought, stress changes it–often in a way that decreases productivity and efficiency.
According to a recent article, researchers found that stress increased the firing and re-firing of the neurons in the prefrontal cortex, affecting the working memory and reducing productivity in rats from 90% to 60% in tests.
While you don’t need the prefrontal cortex to walk or talk or keep long-term memories, individuals who experience a disruption in prefrontal processing can experience periods of irritability, and can be argumentative and prone to distraction.
One of the best ways to reduce stress is through clear, concise, and effective processes. Through wise management of complex schedules, proper planning and forecasting, and effective process development, the smart business leaders can reduce stress, cut expenses, and increase productivity.
For our expert advise on how to improve your business productivity, while easing the stress that threatens your bottom line, contact us.