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How to Improve Cognitive Functions

Many individuals, families and communities have experienced and been affected by work-related injury and illness. In Australia, Safe Work Australia initial data shows that around 180 people died while doing their job while about 107,000 people made a workers compensation claim for severe injury or illness in 2017-2018.

No one should be unsafe at the workplace, and no injury or death is acceptable. During October each year, businesses, employers and workers across Australia are encouraged to support National Safe Work Month and commit to building safe and healthy workplaces for all Australians.

This year theme is “Think Safe. Work Safe. Be Safe.” [1] Read more here

What are Workplace Cognitive Skills and their Function?

Cognitive skills or abilities are how your brain remembers, reasons, holds attention, solves problems, thinks, reads, and learns.

In the workplace, cognitive skills help you interpret data, remember team goals, pay attention during an important meeting and do other tasks that require cognitive ability. [2]

Below are some of the cognitive functions.

1. Read and Understand

Comprehending a training manual or project outline, for example, and then adapting the processes described is essential in any job.

2. Interpret Patterns of Events

If a team can notice the pattern and identify and resolve the issue, you can save your company time, money, and frustration. This type of reasoning can be valuable to any employer.

3. Analyse Problems and Evaluate Options

The ability to analyse a problem means you can examine it objectively from all aspects to find solutions and determine the best results.

4. Brainstorming

Producing a thorough list of workable solutions without stopping to analyse which ones might be correct. It also leads to solutions and usually accompanies ideas such as creativity and team building.

5. Focus attention on a Task

Prioritise tasks and organise schedules to be able to work efficiently until the task or tasks are done. [3]

What is Cognitive Safety?

In Australia, the number of adults aged 64–84 is expected to double while the number of young people will decrease in the coming years. Also, the number of adults with dementia will rise to an estimated 943,000 by 2050 because about 5 per cent of the Australian population has dementia by the age of 65. [5]

Subjective Cognitive Decline (SCD) is the self-reported experience of worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss. It is a form of cognitive impairment, and one of the symptoms is Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. [4]

Organisations should be aware that cognitive problems are like a hidden health time bomb that may create difficulties in their workforce and sometimes at earlier ages than anticipated. Employees may remain in their roles with cognitive deficits that will interfere with their work capability and productivity, which may also have important implications for work health safety.

Some people may have cognitive problems for at least 15 years before diagnosis. Early mental changes and dementia are major sources of disability, and sadly there is no cure for this. The global economic cost for dementia care is currently estimated at $315 billion and rising rapidly.

Research shows that job type and workplace conditions are significant factors in how cognitive decline plays out. To prevent this, there is a need to adapt practices to put more value on longer working lives and workers' health. What are the signs of cognitive decline?

  • Forgetting and difficulty in remembering tasks, instructions, and appointments.

  • Limited learnings and difficulty in learning added information and role demands.

  • An unawareness of committing mistakes or having difficulties.

  • Losing track of where they are or what they are doing.

  • Poor attention and failure in concentration.

  • Avoiding responsibility, delegating work, recruiting help, requesting more time or input to complete work.

  • Anxiety, feeling overwhelmed or stressed by task and role requirements.

  • Difficulties in choice of words and poor verbal fluency.

How do employers take action on cognitive decline issues?

  • Discuss the deterioration in work capacity with the employee sensitively and encourage them to see a medical practitioner.

  • Schedule a neuropsychological assessment, which a registered psychologist can only perform.

  • Once diagnosed, in consultation with the employee, look to revise duties that expose potential work health and safety issues. [5]

How to support Cognitive Safety in your Workplace? There is no secure way to prevent eventual cognitive decline. Still, we can slow down the process and even improve cognitive safety and avoid its risks to our organisations. Below are things you can do to support and promote cognitive safety. 1. Provide simple strategies such as checklists, provision of steps and sequences with flowcharts.

2. Arrange a cognitive assessment of the employee’s cognitive ability to compare to your cognitive demands analysis to modify the strategies and allow the employee to stay productive.

3. If the employees are shift workers, provide regular health checks that include assessments on mental health performance.

4. Hire an occupational therapist to do an ergonomic or accommodation assessment to provide awareness of safety concerns and help employees with their different abilities.

5. Engage employees in trying new learning strategies and different skills.

6. Keep a thorough record of employees’ abilities to ensure an accurate measure of decline should it occur (Fleck, 2015).

7. Work with your employees – give tasks that adhere to an employees’ strengths while providing resources to expand less developed skills.

How to Improve your Cognitive Safety?

Memory is usually the main priority, but other abilities, such as reasoning skills, problem-solving and information processing, decline over time. Sometimes the reason for the decline is simply ageing, or perhaps you don’t use a particular cognitive function as frequently as others, so they decline from lack of use. Below are some tips to improve your cognitive safety:

  • Read educational material or watch educational videos – engage and attempt to convert important or interesting facts to memory.

  • Solve puzzles or brain teasers, play board and card games – this helps use parts of cognitive function you may not regularly use, such as reasoning and problem-solving skills.

  • Exercise your mind and body regularly – get up and go out for a walk on your lunch break with your co-workers.

  • Aim to lessen stress with relaxation techniques and self-care routines.

  • Attend workshops and classes – try to learn new things (Kravetz, 2013).

  • Have a functional cognitive assessment completed by an occupational therapist to get an accurate measure of personal strengths and weaknesses and advice to improve weak areas of cognitive function. [6]

Maintaining cognitive safety is vital in workplaces as it impacts the productivity of workers and avoids work-related injuries. If you want to know more about this or discuss a particular issue you are facing, call us today to have a private and confidential conversation on 1300 114 818 or email us at We look forward to talking to you soon.


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