We know from going to the gym or a run that we feel better afterwards. Sometimes we even have “brainwaves” in the course of the exercise that unlocks a problem we were stumped by when sitting at a desk. For those that don’t work out, similar effects can sometimes be felt when we listen to music. We all work better when we’re refreshed.
But can we turn this on to tap from? Paul Charney, the founder and CEO of creative agency Funworks, thinks so. And what’s more, we can do it over Zoom, too.
Charney has, to coin a phrase, scienced the heck out of it.
“Oxytocin prepares you, dopamine gets you focused, and endorphins help you prioritize and crystalize an idea,” he blogs at Fast Company.
Generating this “brain cocktail… should disinhibit team members’ full potential, making them comfortable enough to share those radical ideas your business needs to power forward.”
He’s even got a prescription for reducing cortisol, the stress hormone that floods our brains and impedes our natural flow of thought.
Step 1: Oxytocin
The first ingredient is oxytocin, the social hormone that needs other people around in order to be released. It’s responsible for that “toasty, calm feeling we get when we’re with people we care about.”
How do we create that in a room full of our peers, or on a Zoom call full of strangers?
Charney suggests one way management can do this is “by taking a joint break during a team meeting, in which everyone turns their cameras on, makes ‘eye contact,’ and shares a funny or embarrassing story they experienced or heard recently.”
Personally, I can’t think of anything more stress inducing.
Charney continues, “Sometimes, if a team member seems stuck, it may be a good idea to put them in a space with someone they cherish, like a partner, and tell them to just spend time with them. They’ll come back refreshed and in a better frame of mind.”
Step 2: Dopamine
Moving on, dopamine is said to help concentrate your thoughts and gets you lost in the moment. It’s released when we’re having fun.
“For example, you can start a meeting with a funny video, or interrupt with a pop quiz. Or gamify your meeting’s agenda so that whenever a team member contributes an idea towards that new marketing strategy, they enter a raffle for a free latte. That chemical will generate great ideas, and make people latch onto them so they can continue to grow.”
Step 3: Endorphins
This is the chemical reaction to exercise. If you can’t get to the gym, Chaney offers some additional euphoria generating suggestions.
“… standing up instead of sitting. Having sex. Dancing.”
“A good way of upping endorphin levels during the workday is to encourage people to take a ‘walking meeting,’ in which they join a Zoom call from their phones while out on a walk,” he says. In-office meetings can be paused for a ‘shake it out’ break; also, you could add a few workout machines to the office and explain to your team how important endorphins are to creative productivity.”
I’m not sure if any of these ideas will be put to use by any company outside of some of the more hippy ones in Silicon Valley, but let’s credit Charney for giving us food for thought.