Work from home has ‘changed our brains’

In June, 2022 Dr Fiona Kerr from The Neurotech Institute spoke with Elissa Lawrence from The Courier Mail. They discussed the extraordinary new research that has shown that working from home has created a round-the-clock environment that has rewired our brains. 

Dr Fiona Kerr, founder of the Neurotech Institute, says a “stress brain loop’’ can physically change the shape of a brain. In some cases, it shrinks it in size and rewiring it to work differently.

“With Covid we have a high stress situation, an emerging environment and it creates an anxiety base. We are in an environment where we can’t plan,” she says.

“Also, when you are working from home, suddenly we become 24-7. There’s an awful lot of people who are weary, not just from Zoom fatigue, but because they don’t turn off.

“You then get a stress loop and that changes your brain and it changes your body.

“A stress brain loop can actually change the size of your brain, it can actually shrink it. It changes the structure and rewires the brain to work differently.

“Chronic stress means that some parts are firing more than they should.”

“The cortisol goes up in your bloodstream because the cortisol receptors are not working as well. It makes real physical changes,”

Kerr also says there is much companies and workplaces can do to make people feel comfortable at work. It is vital CEOs and managers understand what effective hybrid work systems look like.

“You’ve got to think about the basic science of human interaction – when you need to get people together and what this does to decision making skills, to creativity, bonding and trust,” Kerr says.

“Those things are key to knowing how often and why you get people in the one space.

“It’s educating people on the science of the interesting, fascinating and wonderful aspect of exactly what happens when humans interact with each other.”