A groundbreaking trial has been launched in the UK to improve and transform the workplace through further understanding the factors that impact cognitive performance.

Workplace change management consultancy, Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) and research partner, cognitive assessment and training company, MyCognition, are working with Unicef UK, the leading children’s charity, on a research pilot that will explore the extent to which certain factors can improve the performance of our brains. This research promises to aid business heads with the knowledge and science necessary to revolutionise the approach to workplace management.

For many years, AWA has been supporting the professional development of workplace leaders through its Workplace Performance Innovation Network (PIN). Research conducted last year unveiled factors that contribute to the performance of an individual’s brain – and this is now being trailed with Unicef UK to identify how much impact they can have, and what it takes to encourage people to adopt new habits.

13 Unicef UK employees are participating in a two month trial that will involve practical interventions coupled with assessment through MyCognition’s MyCQ, a measure of cognitive function which assesses individuals’ cognition, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses across the five key domains   such as memory, speed and accuracy, decision making, planning, and attention. Two groups are involved – the test group will be immersed in the research findings and best practices of four different factors, the other is a control group who are simply asked to take the assessments at the same time as the main group.

Stage one: test group will be focusing on breakfast, understanding its importance to the brain and modifying their breakfast regime in line with current best thinking in this area. Everyone will be asked to have breakfast every day.

Stage two: as well as having breakfast every day, the test group will next be looking at hydration, how much fluid they take every day (targeting 1.5-2 litres), what happens when they increase it and how they feel as a result.

Stage three: in addition to the above, Unicef UK participants will next be looking at their sleep – how much they get (target 7-9 hours per night), how they prepare themselves for sleep, the quality of sleep and things that affect it – making adjustments wherever they can to optimise the amount and quality of sleep.

Stage four: the test group will be asked to review their current exercise and activity levels, paying more attention to how sedentary or active they are during the working day – with an aspiration to decrease the amount of time they spend not moving at all, taking the stairs more often, taking more exercise etc.

Stage five: is a “laboratory trial” where participants attend a morning session where they will take the cognitive assessment MyCQ several times, under controlled conditions (i.e. to replicate conditions such as quiet working and a distracting environment) to see how much impact these have on the brain’s performance.

This trial has deep implications for workplace facilities management and its impact on people’s health and performance. The aim is to show organisations how they can create the social and physical conditions to get people’s brains fitter so that individuals operate at their best.

“This is quite an unusual trial,” explained CEO and founder of MyCognition, Keiron Sparrowhawk. “Currently, the quality of data in the public domain about cognitive health in the workplace is variable. This brand new study will add important new findings to this data and be another step towards helping to improve the world of work, one mind at a time.”

“We were very keen to be involved in this trial because we want to be an employer of choice, attracting and retaining talented people to do their best work for children and sustaining high levels of performance in a competitive marketplace,” said Helen Griffin, Head of People & Development at Unicef UK. “In addition to supporting people to make good choices and seek out the working conditions that are best for them, we wanted to see what we could do within the workplace to support the factors which the research show make a difference.”

“In the end we are our brains,” said Andrew Mawson, MD of AWA. “The effectiveness of our brains makes a real difference to the performance and contribution we bring to our organisations, especially in knowledge based industries. This trial is about further exploring how to create the right conditions for people’s cognitive performance to be at its very best.”





Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.