Five sensory savvy tips to reduce overload and stress in open plan offices

Posted: 20 May, 2016

By: Annemarie Lombard

Section: Corporate

Take 5

Sensory neuroscience is understanding the brain and how it contributes to us working and living on a daily basis. Open plan office and call centre environments are traditionally busy, sensory overloaded, and noisy with a high activity level.  The following are simple, yet effective strategies based on how the senses work in the brain at the level where it integrates with alert levels, stress, attention and emotion.

  1. Taste: Sucking or crunching on healthy foods is regulatory for the brain (i.e. apples, nuts, carrots). The ultimate is the use of a spout water bottle – while sucking away, you will be hydrating your brain and your full bladder will mean more movement breaks!
  2. Move: Movement is one of the best regulators for the brain. Stand up from your desk and take a movement break. Stretch and take a deep breath. Have lunch away from your desk! Do regular exercise!
  3. Touch: Deep firm, hard pressure on the skin is calming and regulatory – that is why massage is such a great stress reliever. Put both hands on your head and squeeze down firmly for 5 seconds, relax and repeat. Fiddling with a stress ball and/or textured object is regulatory. Ever wondered why some of us get such a kick out of doodling?
  4. Look: Calming visual stimuli are: fish tanks, lava lamps, artwork, gentle colours and plants. Reduce the clutter in your work environment as it keeps on stimulating the brain in the “background”! Reduce the number of icons on your desktop, clear your inbox and use a structured electronic filing system.
  5. Listen: Music has powerful effects on the brain. I advocate the use of earphones/headphones as they can help anyone contain noise and auditory distractions. Use music that calms and regulates the brain. Play up-tempo and lively music when you need to kick start your brain, but more calming and regulatory music when overloaded and stressed.
  6. The bottom line is: Take 5 – give your brain a break!