Brits struggle to concentrate on their job for longer than 40 minutes, but the answer could be in their diet, new research reveals today.
The study of 2,012 workers conducted by crop association British Summer Fruits found that, on average, people can only concentrate for 48 minutes before they become distracted.
But those who considered themselves to be very healthy eaters can concentrate for nearly a full hour (56 minutes), 17 per cent higher than the average.
The study which was carried out to reveal levels of productivity in the workplace found that Brits are struggling to concentrate, with a quarter (26 per cent) saying that they only work to their full potential up to half of their working day.
Nearly half (45 per cent) said tiredness was the main reason for losing concentration, while a third said that they were often distracted by feeling hungry.
Meanwhile, 14 per cent said that they were frequently distracted by social media on their phone.
Scientists’ say diet can affect your performance at work as nutrients found within certain foods boost blood flow to the brain, a key factor in helping to increase productivity and concentration.
Results from the study reveal that 25 per cent of those who considered themselves as very healthy felt that they were productive throughout the day and this increased to 34 per cent amongst those who ate up to seven servings of fruit per day.
Leading nutritionist Hala El Shafie said: “We all know that feeling when you get halfway through your working day and you’re suddenly in that space where you can’t seem to focus on anything for longer than a few minutes.
“Academics claim that snacking on foods like berries which are rich in anti-oxidants may be useful alternatives to stimulants such as caffeine. These powerful nutrients have been shown to stimulate the blood and oxygen to your brain which results in sharper focus.”
Over half of those questioned (55 per cent) said that they felt most productive in the morning with the key time between 9 and 11am. Whilst productivity and concentration slumped in the afternoon with only a fifth of workers (20 per cent) saying that that was their most productive time of day.
Hala continued: “Foods, like berries, which contain high levels of anti-oxidants can change the way neurons in the brain communicate. By helping to prevent inflammation in the brain, which can lead to neuronal damage, we can improve both motor control and cognition in the long term.
“Including a cup full of fresh berries into your daily diet may have long term positive effects on our brain health whilst supporting us in the short term too.”
The majority of workers in the 16-24 age bracket (77 per cent) considered themselves to make the most health conscious diet decisions and were also the group to have the highest levels of concentration with an average of 59 minutes before they felt distracted.
Laurence Olins, Chairman of British Summer Fruits said: “Following this research of the potential links between healthy eating and concentration, it would be great if employers could encourage their staff to adopt a healthier diet during the working week.
“Eating healthily shouldn’t feel like a chore and snacking on fruits like berries can help with food cravings during the day, thanks to their natural sweetness”.
Interestingly male workers claim they can concentrate for 51 minutes, on average, without feeling distracted, 16 per cent higher than the figure for women workers (44 minutes).
Workers who had more manual skilled and financial jobs also had higher levels of concentration compared to other workers.
Consultant Nutritionist Hala El Shafie and Founder of Nutrition Rocks (www.nutrition-rocks.co.uk) has over 15 year’s clinical experience and a client list including a number of high-profile and celebrity clients, here she offers five simple ways to boost productivity at work:
- Fuel your mind and your body at the start of every day.Missing breakfast will mean your adrenaline will kick in and make you feel stressed. What’s good for the body is also good for the brain so make sure you have a balanced breakfast of proteins with carbohydrates to stabilise blood sugars and drink plenty of water as dehydration is not your best friend when it comes to concentration.
- Drink up and don’t let your body dehydrate! Over 70 percent of your body is made up of water and every function in the body is dependent on water, including brain activity and the nervous system. Lack of water to the brain can cause problems with focus and memory, as well as headaches, sleep issues, anger and depression so remember to keep drinking throughout the day. Choose an ice cold berry packed smoothie, herbal teas, fruit teas and water to keep hydrated throughout the day.
- Snack healthy. It is important to stay refuelled in order to provide our brain with the energy it needs to stay alert throughout the day. It is also important to make healthy food choices as this has a direct impact on our cognitive performance. An unhealthy lunch or snack can contribute to that dreaded afternoon slump. A handful of berries mid-morning or mid-afternoon is a great way to have an added boost ensuring you and your concentration are on top form.
- One step at a time. Multitasking can result in partial attention on each task which, in the end, achieves much less and leaves us more likely to make mistakes. Instead, try writing down each task, then tick them off as you go and if possible take a brief mental break between each one. You feel more accomplishment if you get through each task systematically, while giving it your full and undivided concentration.
- Take a break. Make sure you always take a proper break at lunch time. Avoid working through your lunch or eating at your desk, instead get outside for some fresh air. A short brisk walk is a brilliant way to get some exercise and help you feel rejuvenated while you experience a different environment and reset yourself for the afternoon ahead.