Remote Work is Better, Proven by Brain Study
Brain Study Recommends Remote Work
I am a remote work native. My first job after college started in March 2020, four days before the nationwide lockdown started. Therefore, I commuted to my office only four days in my career and worked from home for the rest. Recently, I read a book by Shion Kabasawa, a Japanese psychiatrist, which explains remarkable neuroscientific discoveries that explain how remote work can maximize our productivity. The first key is to utilize Serotonin for “brain golden hour,” and the second is to use Acetylcholine for “brain revitalization.”
Serotonin – Brain Golden Hour
According to the study introduced by Kabasawa, our brain productivity hits peak 2~3 hours after waking up. That is due to the emission of Serotonin, a crucial element in giving us a mild pleasure to start the day in the morning. That golden hour is when we can be the smartest and most organized, which unfortunately has been wasted by commuting if one has to commute to the office.
If you are working from home, you can set up the first hour enjoying your morning routine, like taking a shower, eating breakfast, and enjoying the sunshine. Then, instead of getting on public transportation or a car, you can spend the next 1~2 hours of your brain’s golden time to kickstart the working hours by planning meetings, solving significant problems, and learning valuable information. This lifestyle is only possible when you edit the commute out of your day by working from home.
Acetylcholine – Power of Short Nap
Dr. Mark Rosekind of NASA is an expert in fatigue study who analyzed the power of napping. According to Rosekind’s study, short napping of around 30 minutes can increase brain performance by 30%. Having a space to nap between working hours (preferably lunchtime) can help workers maintain their work performance until the end.
Can you nap anywhere? I am sensitive about sleeping, so I cannot easily sleep when I am not on my bed. Therefore, those bizarre-looking pods that some companies install in their office buildings cannot help me take power naps. However, in my home, I can easily do so. When I have a very rough morning with numerous meetings and challenging problems, I feel my tired brain loses its performance. In those days, napping for 20~30 mins around midday helped me revitalize and continue solving problems in the afternoon. The brain chemical that wakes us up with a fresh mind is Acetylcholine, which promotes a deep rest of your brain and body while sleeping. With a short nap, you can utilize the effect of Acetylcholine to revitalize your mind and continue performing great for the remaining working hours.
Dopamine and Norepinephrine – Caveat
While remote work can maximize productivity, failing to draw a line between work and life can attract side effects. Dopamine is a chemical that motivates us based on rewards. We get dopamine when we plan to achieve and again when reaching a goal. Norepinephrine encourages us to think and act quickly and efficiently when we face a crisis, such as fear of missing a deadline, nervous moments before an important presentation, etc. While these two chemicals are the core mechanism to help us get what we want, this tires our brains. We cannot keep them turned on forever, or we will lose brain efficiency eventually.
To prevent us from overdriving our brain with Dopamine and Norepinephrine, we need to rest well. However, remote work can often blur the boundary between work and life. For example, if we continue working throughout the night or stay on the work computer throughout the weekends, which is possible by easy access to the desk, we can forget to turn off our brain. That may lead us to inefficiency and low productivity without even realizing our brain is overloaded. Remote workers should find their workflow and framework between work and life to maximize productivity.
Remote Vs. Office
We have applied Shion Kabasawa’s discoveries on brain productivity to our remote working culture and how it shows remote work is more brain-productivity friendly than commuting to an office. As we discover more about our brains, new ideas and theories will arise to understand how we can maximize our work performances. Until then, my heart leans toward the idea that remote work is more efficient than an office commute.