We all know the feeling: hunched over our computer and frantically typing away as we desperately attempt to complete the critical project of the day. Our head is angled down toward the computer, our neck is tight, our shoulders are rolled inward, and our spine is curled. We are in the “stress pose.” A walk down the hallway of your office on any given Tuesday (even if it’s not month end) will reveal a majority of employees in this exact posture.
Good posture isn’t an ALTA Best Practice, but it should be
When people are under stress, they subconsciously constrict their posture and tighten the muscles in their necks, shoulders, and backs. The more stressed out people are, the more they hunch and constrict. Conversely, the more relaxed people are, the less they hunch and constrict. Think of that time you were on that exotic beach vacation, laying on your beach towel under the sun. Was your posture tense and constricted? Of course not!
Now think of the last time you were working on an important deadline on your computer: was your posture tense and constricted? Very likely so!
Here’s the fascinating thing: modern neuroscience has proven that maintaining a tense and constricted posture while working significantly impacts our brain functioning, hormonal secretions, and emotions. When we hold a constricted posture, our mood and cognition are very quickly impaired. Yet when we hold a relaxed and open posture while working, our mood and cognition are significantly enhanced.
This has a direct impact on your business. Employees whose cognition is impaired because they are stressed are the ones who make the mistakes, which lead to escrow losses, and E&O and Title claims. These same employees are the ones who impair your business’ reputation. Not only do these individuals make more mistakes, but when not making mistakes, they perform far worse than they would if they could effectively manage their posture, hormones, and emotions.
Did you know that your posture directly impacts your emotional state and cognitive performance while working? The science is clear: bad posture directly leads to impaired professional performance for a variety of different reasons.
If you want your employees to perform their job with maximum quality, make sure they do not fall into a “stress pose.” When they do, their mood and job performance will plummet.
- Your Posture Alters Your Testosterone-to-Cortisol Ratio
In ground-breaking research, Harvard social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, discovered that it only takes two minutes in a “constricted” posture for our testosterone levels to plummet and our cortisol levels to skyrocket. Testosterone is critical for both men and women to perform at their best, as it increases energy, concentration and focus. Cortisol, on the other hand, is the primary stress hormone – and leaves us feeling anxious, fearful and self-doubting. Optimal cognitive performance occurs when our testosterone-to-cortisol ratio is high. When the ratio is inverse, we are unfocused, fatigued, and easily distracted. In her landmark TedTalk on “Power Poses” (which has received nearly 40 million views), Cuddy demonstrates that it takes just two minutes in either a “constricted pose” or “power pose” for our entire testosterone-to-cortisol ratio to change.
So whenever you find yourself in a constricted or stress pose, your physiological and cognitive performance is necessarily being impaired. Instead, pull your head and shoulders back, and allow your body to hold a confident, empowered posture as you work. In just two minutes, your testosterone-to-cortisol ratio will shift, and your focus, energy and clarity will improve. Amazing!
- Your Posture Affects The Blood Flow To Your Brain
Slouching and hunching reduce oxygenation of blood to the brain, which impairs high-level brain functioning. This is because slouching leads to compression of the abdominal muscles, which in turn impairs abdominal breathing and increases chest breathing, which in turn, reduces the oxygenation of the blood. (Abdominal breathing oxygenates the blood far more significantly than chest breathing.) Blood oxygen levels are critical to the functioning of our brain, and to our focus, attention, learning, memory, communication, and several other cognitive functions. In short, bad posture leads to low blood flow to that precious brain of yours!
- Your Posture Affects Your Information Recall
Slouching has been proven to alter our brain’s ability to retrieve memories. Specifically, slouching substantially increases our tendency to recall negative information, and substantially reduces our ability to recall positive information. In one study, 92% of participants experienced reduced positive thought recollection when seated in a slumped position, as compared to their thought recollection while seated in a non-slumped position. In this way, our posture literally impacts our brain’s ability to recall positive information and retrieve positive thoughts. Slouching therefore leads to cognitive bias that alters our subjective interpretation of our environment and experiences.
- Your Posture Affects Your Stress Resiliency
Slouching and hunching while working makes you far less resilient to stress. According to a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, “[a]dopting an upright seated posture in the face of stress can maintain self-esteem, reduce negative mood, and increase positive mood compared to a slumped posture. Furthermore, sitting upright increases rate of speech and reduces self-focus. Sitting upright may be a simple behavioral strategy to help build resilience to stress.” In short, this study concluded that our physiological and linguistic responses to stress differ markedly based on whether we are in a slumped or upright posture. So if you hold an upright posture while under stress, you will be far more resilient to that stress.
Posture and Profits
So whenever you or your employees hunch or slump while working, remember that cognitive and professional performance is being reduced in a variety of ways. Each time you notice you have fallen into a constricted posture, just straighten yourself out and put yourself into a confident, upright posture instead. Over time, you will slowly train your body to stay upright and open – even in the face of intense stress. And before you know it, your subconscious response to stress will be to hold an upright, empowered posture. As a result, when the stakes are the highest, your brain and your cognition will function at their finest: improved focus, clearer thinking, increased energy, better information recall, and enhanced stress resiliency.
Better posture means better performance and less mistakes, which means more profits.
‘Positive Posture’TM might not be an ALTA Best Practice, but it should be a Best Practice at your firm.
Jarrett Green is a former business litigator, who now works with companies, law firms, and other entities to help reduce employee stress and turmoil, improve employee engagement and fulfillment, and optimize employee performance and success. ProsperitasForward is a consulting firm led by a team of title insurance veterans, formed to help title agencies improve top line revenue and bottom line results.