Buzz! It’s your Monday morning alarm clock.
You wake up, drink coffee, eat breakfast, and workout (maybe). Then you pull out your laptop to join that Zoom meeting… Again.
The next day, you do the exact same thing. Pretty soon, your remote work-life has become more routine than ever before. While social distancing is all you can do to stay healthy and safe, there is one major issue with having too much routine — you miss out on new experiences.
The pandemic can hamper your overall health and development even if you are staying home. Why? Our brains are hardwired to learn and develop from doing new things.
Research shows that employees are more creative and productive when they are actively engaging in new experiences. Every time you try something new, your brain is working to connect the new thought to something that’s already familiar to you. The more your brain works at making these connections happen, the more creative you are.
This isn’t limited to jobs that encourage creativity or admire innovation. Even work that is supposed to be routine benefits from integrating new experiences. Employees perform better when they have the freedom to strive for new opportunities, like a promotion or new position. Psychological research shows that happiness, productivity, and energy are all tied to experiences more than material possessions.
It is difficult for the brain to grow and learn when it is not being challenged by processing new experiences. Repetition can make it easier to get things done, but at the end of the day, your personal and professional development suffers.
In a study, neurologists tested the critical thinking skills of people making sandwiches. The people who made sandwiches in a different order scored highest in cognitive flexibility. Our ideas are the product of our experiences — in routine work, our thinking becomes less productive because we are not learning and processing new information.
Even if you are doing everything you can to stay home during the pandemic, your brain might be suffering from too much routine.
This leads to a new question for employers and members of the workforce — can we have ‘new experiences’ digitally?
To an extent, yes. Meeting people virtually is one experience that exercises neurons in the brain. Studies show that adults with a strong social network have fewer health problems such as depression and high blood pressure. You can still be engaged with talking to new colleagues through a phone call or social media as you work remotely.
Unfortunately, creating new experiences for yourself at home is difficult. There are only so many ways to walk the dog, go for a run, or do your laundry. However, there are many ways to add a ‘new experience’ to your day. I like learning to play a new song on the piano or cooking cuisine I’ve never made before.
Don’t let the lockdown stop you from being productive at work.
Find something that makes you think — challenge yourself to learn something new.
Who knows? You might find that you’re happier, more energized, and more productive in that Zoom meeting because of it.