Energy management: Optimising your team’s brainpower with Whole Brain® Thinking

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It’s been over a year since the global COVID-19 pandemic began, and many remote teams are feeling like they’re constantly running on fumes. Beyond the stresses of the health and economic situations, days spent on endless, back-to-back virtual meetings, sharing your workspace with family… it is easy to feel drained despite a partial return to the office.

For years, a top productivity concern was time management – now it has shifted to energy management. Here are some of the best techniques we’ve learned for energy management to support wellness and resilience and avoid burnout in remote or hybrid work.

Managing Cognitive Load

The many apps involved in remote work can quickly overwhelm you with endless notifications that increase your cognitive load and in turn decrease focus and productivity (not to mention potential distractions from family, social media, or your cat/desk-mate).

One well-established technique to manage cognitive load is chunking out specific work within defined time windows, known as ‘time-boxing’, and blocking specific times in your calendar to protect those time-boxes. This ensures you aren’t depleting your brain’s capacity for productive work.

Better still, categorising your calendar time boxes based on the type of thinking that is required can help you align different types of thinking to the best times to do that type of work.

How do you know which activities to do when? Your HBDI® profile results will tell you which types of thinking you prefer most and least, both on a typical day as well as when you’re under pressure. It also reports on the times when you have more or less energy, so that you can take that into account when planning your day.

For example, if you have the most energy in the mornings, you should do the work that requires the thinking you least prefer when you start your day. This is because the thinking you actually prefer will be relatively easier to do when you have less energy, and could even re-energise you. If you leave the work you least prefer to when you have the least energy, chances are you won’t end up doing it (or will do it poorly).

Creating ‘Flow State’ Routines

Creating routines around specific types of thinking also helps you manage your energy to make your day more productive, as well as helping to eliminate decision fatigue and procrastination.

For example, if you always design in the morning and do meetings in the afternoon, there are 2 fewer decisions to make when you start your workday. Wake up, get coffee, and start designing. Eat lunch, come back to your workspace, and open up Zoom. For those who were used to going into an office every day, these routines helped demarcate your day and get you into the headspace required for productivity. With our lives now a cacophonous mash-up of work and home life, you need to be more intentional about creating the space for flow.

These methods are backed by growing research on the benefits of routines for flow states. The research of Ronald T. Kellogg, a cognitive scientist, has shed some light on the routines of writing and creative flow. His work shows evidence that “environments, schedules, and rituals restructure the writing process and amplify performance… The principles of memory retrieval suggest that certain practices should amplify performance. These practices encourage a state of flow rather than one of anxiety or boredom… The room, time of day, or ritual selected for working may enable or even induce intense concentration or a favourable motivational or emotional state.”

At Herrmann, we also require meetingless Mondays or meetingless mornings to protect for time-boxed ‘deep work’ that requires uninterrupted focus. Each team member selects a 4-hour block, scheduled into each Monday, that is universally accepted as ‘protected time’ that no one can book over.

Understanding your thinking preferences 

With the insights we gain from individual HBDI® profiles, we’re able to ascertain to a certain degree whether we or a team member may be suffering from burnout based on their thinking and behaviour. 

Knowing the signs of burnout can be incredibly useful – prevention is always better than cure. Here’s what you can do: 

If you preference The Analytical Mindset you may be approaching burnout if: 

  • You are questioning everything
  • You’ve found yourself withdrawing
  • You’re only trusting the facts 
  • You’re bogged down on cause-effect relationships 

What can you do and how can your manager help you? 

  • Seek clarity and detailed information 
  • Take your time with decision-making (where possible)
  • Ask for clear instructions 

If you preference The Practical Mindset you may be approaching burnout if:

  • You’re being overly cautious 
  • You’re withdrawing when faced with change 
  • You’re frequently opposing suggestions from colleagues or family
  • You’re difficult to approach or others are finding you overly stubborn 

What can you do and how can your manager help you? 

  • Get involved in planning and decision-making 
  • Find a safe environment or time where you feel comfortable to voice your opinions 
  • Seek recognition to reassure you’re a valued and reliable member of your team  

If you preference The Relational Mindset you may be approaching burnout if:

  • You’re becoming too emotional during difficult (but necessary) decisions 
  • You’re overly concerned with what people think of you rather than the task at hand 
  • You’re seeking attention from wherever you can
  • You find yourself talking for the sake of talking

What can you do and how can your manager help you? 

  • Organise and provide opportunities to bring the team together 
  • Seek encouragement from colleagues for your efforts 
  • Try and meet new people to remain engaged with the organisation 

If you preference The Experimental Mindset you may be approaching burnout if:

  • You’re overly concerned with immediate results and action as opposed to long-term vision 
  • You’re becoming impatient
  • You’re less likely to want to work independently
  • Others have found you blunt, irritated or inflexible 

What can you do and how can your manager help you? 

  • Trust your strengths to find ways out of challenging situations 
  • Give yourself the independence you need 
  • Take risks and apply creative thinking 

The benefit of preventing burnout

The HBDI® and Whole Brain® Thinking can be used as a catalyst to start a bigger conversation around burnout, motivations and how to put steps in place to retain employees. Retention reports suggest that it costs as much as 33% of a worker’s annual salary to replace them – and that 75% of the causes of employee turnover are preventable. Thus, managing energy levels not only leads to happier, more productive and innovative teams, it also helps your businesses bottom line.

Interested in learning more about Whole Brain® Thinking and how it can help your team and business reach its full potential? Get in touch with Herrmann today.

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