As it happens, Regus now provides "think pods", small physically enclosed spaces within our business lounges, where people can insulate themselves to a degree from the comings and goings around them, without being completely cut off from human contact. They are proving quite popular.
With flexible working, we are increasingly able to integrate work and domestic life in ways that suit us, take account of our lifestyle, and enable us to work at times and in situations where they are most productive. But people do not always know what is best for them, and enlightened employers can do a lot to make the working environment conducive to optimal brain function.
At the top of every employer's list should be the kind of job training that helps to build a person's cognitive brain. This might involve e-learning programmes, internal newsletters or intranets, even adult learning courses at local colleges and universities.
Talk to each other
When it comes to building reflective brain function, the key is to ensure that people talk to each other, that they join professional associations, go to conferences, or join networking groups. Social networking should also be encouraged. Finally, one of the most useful ways of building reflective brain function is to introduce a 'mentoring' system that encourages senior staff to pass on their knowledge, while keeping them abreast of the changing perceptions of the younger generation.
The working environment, however, is only part of the job. If we are to get the most out of our people, we need to get personal.
At any age and at any time of day, learning can enhance our synaptic connections. But this only happens when affective brain function is working well - in other words, when we are in receptive mood, with our emotions reacting positively.
This is where it becomes essential that an employer takes a genuine interest in the emotional well-being of the employee. If you want people to think, you have to make it clear that you value them and want to hear their thoughts. This means speaking freely and encouraging them to speak freely in turn.
Productivity depends on brain function, which makes it the primary task of any employer to get to know their staff in order to create the conditions in which they can use their brains most effectively. We repeatedly insist that people are our greatest asset, but do we take sufficient care of those assets? We should think about them more - and thereby give them more opportunity to think for themselves, and for the business.
Mark Dixon is the CEO of leading workplace solutions provider, Regus.
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