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How Much Do You Know About Cognitive Load Theory?

Zoom meetings, shutdown alerts, homeschooling, medical news, travel restrictions, elections, shopping restrictions, Amazon deliveries, wash this, don't wash that, hand sanitizer, and on, and on, and on. You are far from alone if the simple act of reading that short list feels exhausting. The reality is that 2020 has upended careers and lifestyles. This is a year of significant changes, and we are living in a fluid environment that is most certainly impacting your company culture. Understanding what's happening in your office starts by understanding how Cognitive Load Theory applies to your company culture.

Cognitive Load Theory

Cognitive Load Theory refers to the amount of working memory an individual has at their disposal. It is akin to RAM on a computer and identifies how many tasks and how much information an individual can efficiently process at a given time.

Cognitive Load Theory breaks this down into three types of working memory. The first is intrinsic memory, which relates to the number of steps an employee must take to perform a given task. The second is extraneous load which references how much of those tasks does not support learning the task. Finally, germane load references how much extra load is required by teaching activities to facilitate learning. 

Managing this is crucial for maintaining productivity and helping employees stay focused on their jobs. Effective management means maximizing the germane load, minimizing extraneous load, and managing intrinsic load.

In layman's terms: Simplify.

Rolling Forward in an Era of Change

The reality is that we live in an era of change. This year it's a pandemic; tomorrow, it could be a robot revolution. Anxiety levels are elevated, employees are juggling more tasks than ever, and company culture is suffering. 

Applying Cognitive Load Theory establishes a baseline employers can use to keep employees on an even keel and focused on completing work-related tasks.  

Start by streamlining systems and establishing routines. Use a standard video communication system, establish set work schedules, and limit all non-essential communications and tasks. Equally as important, if your organization has extraneous bureaucracy, now is the time to streamline processes.

It would be best if you also encouraged your employees to adopt routines for both their work and personal life. The more predictable the routine, the less of a load it creates on the memory. This translates into a greater capacity to focus on work-related tasks. 

Similarly, employers should help employees limit and manage the stressors in their daily lives, for instance, by establishing realistic work deadlines, encouraging family time, encouraging participation in health and wellness programs, exercise, etc. Combined, these help employees decompress and give their brains a rest.

The Final Step Is the Hardest

Helping employees tune out anything that's not directly related to them or what they're doing is difficult. But, it is vital to establishing a productive and cohesive company culture. Learning how to tune out the noise and ignore extraneous cognitive load requires one thing: discipline. 

Naturally, managers and executives should lead by example and should be the most disciplined in your organization. Those who demonstrate effective management of their workload and personal responsibilities will inspire their teams to follow. These individuals will bring their teams together and into focus, which will help create a strong and resilient company culture.

Contact Greenlink Payroll at (480) 385-2525 for more information about the ways we can help improve your company culture. From helping your teams eliminate distractions to establishing new procedures for processing paperwork, it's our pleasure to help your business prosper.    

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