Beatriz Arantes, a senior researcher of workspace futures at Steelcase conducted the research and found that; “Attention is a precious resource that most workers manage rather poorly. The common approach to an overwhelming amount of work is to put in more hours and focus harder. But if you look at what research is telling us about the brain, it’s clear that this approach is counterproductive.”

“As the amount, sources and channels of information are increasing exponentially, our response is to try harder to keep up with it. Yet this strategy is doomed, because our cognitive capacities are not growing. Our ability to pay attention is limited – especially high-quality attention that workers use to solve complex problems. Sustaining attention is very taxing for the brain, and so our minds will wander and refuse to cooperate, regardless of how much coffee is consumed.”

 Arantes went on to say that “we need to occasionally let the mind wander so the brain can work subconsciously with stimuli in the environment to make connections and help solve a difficult problem. New information or a conversation with a colleague can bring much needed inspiration”. Arantes also promoted taking regular breaks and advised against multitasking.

Steelcase collaborated with Canadian researchers to develop a measurement evaluation tool, combining their ongoing research on human behaviour at work with findings from relevant papers including Davidson’s ‘The Emotional Life of Your Brain’ and John Medina’s ‘Brain Rules’.