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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?