While traditional wellness programs may focus on physical health, a new trend is emerging where companies are incorporating neuroscience-based techniques to improve their staff's mental and emotional well-being.
The modern workplace can be highly stressful, and employers increasingly recognize the importance of incorporating wellness programs to improve the health and productivity of their employees. According to Tan Lee, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of EMOTIV, a bioinformatics company that uses electroencephalography (EEG) to enhance understanding of the human mind, typical wellness programs don't suffice for many. A certain degree of stress is needed in the workplace for an employee to reach an optimal “work zone” through their reticular activating system (RAS). However, too much stress can elevate cortisol levels and decrease performance under pressure.
Lee says that one key strategy to keep stress levels in the “good” zone is to promote mindfulness practices. While many might be unconvinced of the scientific merits of meditation, activities such as meditation or yoga are proven to increase emotional regulation and reduce feelings of anxiety or burnout. These can help employees increase their emotional resilience to tolerate and endure “bad” stress and ultimately restore equilibrium.
Additionally, Lee says, workplaces need preventative mental health programs that stop mental health issues from arising before they even begin. By encouraging regular breaks throughout the workday, promoting a positive work-life balance, and offering mental health resources, internal task forces can also help to create a more supportive and less stressful work environment.
Another strategy is to avoid one-size-fits-all wellness programs and instead focus on what leading neuroscientific studies say. Cognitive performance and creativity should be at the center of wellness, and technology should always be leveraged. This can include providing opportunities for employees to engage in activities that stimulate the brain, such as brain games or puzzles, or following the latest guidelines in mental health research. By promoting cognitive engagement, companies can help to foster an environment that encourages innovation and problem-solving in a healthy and stimulating way rather than an overly stressful one.