To work efficiently and productively, perhaps even work on several tasks side by side and generate new ideas in between. Is that how new work works? Not according to Bernd Hufnagl, neuroscientist and neurobiologist, who discussed this topic with the A1 team and A1 human resource manager Fred Mahringer in an online live interview. How does our brain work? And how does it not work? Which screws do we have to turn? As individuals and as a company?

A Thursday morning, a well-known guest, a new format and a current topic: We need more focus. Especially when we talk about New Work @ A1, focus is the key. Over 300 interested people follow the 1-hour live event on our internal social media platform (over 2,000 will follow later on demand!), ask questions via the comment function and get the answers directly in the live stream.

Melanie: »Do you really have to »do nothing« to switch off? Or can you do that »nothing« during sports as well? e.g. running, swimming?«

Andreas: »I try not to read e-mails or workplace posts while I’m on vacation to get some distance from my work. How do you see longer ‘downtimes’ and ‘recharging the batteries’ and how long/ how often should such downtimes be during a year?«

The messages of the renowned scientist are simple and clear: take breaks, don’t wait for the summer vacation, but try to shape your work during the day with efficient phases and phases of recovery. Particularly interesting are his remarks about the medically proven insight that conscious moments of boredom, daydreaming or looking foolishly cause a stimulation of the brain and thus become a source of new ideas and thoughts.

Werner: »You said that the brain is highly dynamic! How should a team meeting be designed in order to maintain concentration and reduce the exhaustion of the participants?«

Corinna: »Is there a recommendation how many hours a day – digital meetings make sense?«

In the current situation, we are spending more time than ever in the home office, physical meetings are replaced by online calls. Digitalization and permanent media consumption are causing our attention to drop, especially during long meetings. What to do? The expert’s tip is aimed at the so-called “I perspective”, participants should know why they are in the meeting and how they can contribute meaningfully. Here, Bernd Hufnagl recommends alternating sequences of meetings with analog breaks, to physically activate oneself, or to daydream a moment!

The ability to multitask – an illusion?

Many of us are convinced to be professionals in the simultaneous completion of tasks, and if not perfect, then we try to be at least as efficient as possible. Even our personnel manager Fred (so far) uses the free minutes during his lunch break to read e-mails. In any case, the sobering answer from the neuroscientist is: multitasking is not possible. As soon as we are distracted by an activity, it takes many minutes before our concentration returns to the original task.

»From now on, I will try to let my thoughts wander twice a week during the lunch break.«

Fred Mahringer, A1 Human Resource Manager

Waltraud: »It is very much appreciated that one always picks-up an incoming call no matter what you´re doing at that moment. How should we deal with such situation? The working environment simply demands a certain degree of multi-tasking.«

Rainer: »How about turning off notifications in MS Teams and Outlook and changing this as default setting for the entire company?«

Rainer‘s recommendation is currently being reviewed internally and gives hope for undisturbed moments. In addition to an interesting input, the motivation to try out new things and to look into the future with reflection remains for us.