after employees' brain and mind should be
part of companies' risk management strategies
Helsinki (05.10.2009 - Juhani Artto) It is difficult to
understand why so few companies have invested so little -in terms of their risk management
strategies- when it comes to looking after employees' brain and mind, says research
professor Kiti Müller. She is the director of the Brain and Work Research Centre at the
Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.
However, when asked, she
has an explanation for this, which she, herself, finds utterly unsatisfactory. The
situation goes hand-in-hand with the fact that -until now- one has not been able to
measure objectively and reliably the overall brain load level. They are caused, for
example, by cognitively demanding work tasks combined with internal, human related
factors, such as lack of sleep or coexisting chronic diseases (diabetes, sleeping
disorders, mental stress etc.). Therefore, company managers, used to paying attention only
to measurable variables have ignored findings and lessons to be learned offered by brain
These lessons concern rest, sleep, stress and several other psycho-physiological matters.
Nowadays, many enlightened laymen are aware to these but the way working life is organised
in companies (by management) chooses to ignore these lessons in the main. Another mutual
challenge concerns how to measure the quality of brainwork. How to measure the impacts of
thinking: what is good and sustainable brainwork. These questions are critical for
worklife in an information and learning society. All work requires planning and thinking.
Overloading of the brain increases human error and the fatigued brain does not create.
According to Müller, a top-level brain researcher, experts will have the means to measure
brain loads in the near future. The Centre, led by Müller, will apply this capability to
research into working life.
She looks optimistically at the future. She believes that the resistance, of the managers,
to the lessons advanced by brain researchers will "little by little" be broken
down. But, before that happens innumerable working people will continue to suffer burnout
and other negative consequences of brain overloads. For these individuals this is tragic;
for companies and whole societies it is simply a stupid waste of human resources.
Müller wishes for safety-at-work representatives and experts from pioneer companies, in
this field, to meet and develop working life models that do not ignore but utilise
conclusions made by brain researchers.