The Science of Healthy High Performance




Dr John Briffa


While our professional lives can be fulfilling and rewarding, challenges related to work-life balance and lifestyle are common. Many people find the demands of work can have a significant impact on their energy and wellbeing, and statistics show that rates of stress-related issues such as anxiety and burnout are on the rise.


Working Well provides practical, science-based solutions for all the common work-related challenges that jeopardise wellbeing, performance and resilience. This book will give you the tools you need to maintain high levels of energy, effectiveness, and life satisfaction, whatever your role, and whether you’re working from home or in some other setting.




Working Well offers essential insights and effective strategies in four key areas (the ‘4 Es’):


•  EMOTIONAL REGULATION - how to support and enhance your thinking, mood, mindset and resilience


•  ENERGY - how to lift and sustain your levels of vitality and wellbeing


•  ENVIRONMENT - how to optimise your workspace at home or office to maintain your wellbeing and boost



•  EXECUTION - how to manage your workload, eliminate distractions and maintain focus to maximise your

   effectiveness and productivity

Here’s some context on what Working Well offers in each of these four critical areas:




While work and life challenges are coming, the most common problem of all can be summed up in a single word: stress. At one end of the spectrum, stress and feelings of overwhelm can cause someone to lose enthusiasm and disengage from their work. However, at the other end, stress can precipitate a full-blown mental health issue or burnout. It’s a rare and fortunate person who is free of personal stresses such as concerns about money, relationships, or their perceived level of ‘achievement’.


The first section of Working Well starts with an exploration of what stress is and what it does. You’ll see that the news here is not all bad, at all. Some stress and pressure can actually bring benefits. However, too much can compromise our thinking, decision-making and mood, and may lead to significant health issues over the longer term.


Once a good foundation in terms of our understanding of stress has been laid, Working Well moves on to look at how we can manage it more effectively. This section explores a range of shifts in thinking and mental strategies that support psychological wellbeing and resilience.


The final chapter in the Emotional Regulation section explores how you can mitigate stress and boost your resourcefulness using breathing and meditation exercises. This chapter also includes information on how to use readily-available technology to measure and modify your stress response to support your mood, emotional wellbeing and performance.




If your ambition is to be engaged, fulfilled and productive at work and in your personal life, then abundant energy is something you can’t do without. We can have all the skills, strategy and experience in the world, but once fatigue is a factor, we are simply unable to fully experience life and take the opportunities it has to offer. When we run low on energy, it drains the enjoyment and satisfaction we may derive from life, and puts a hard brake on our ability to fulfil our potential.


Working Well’s second section will provide you with knowledge and know-how for optimising your energy, vitality and overall wellbeing. It offers in-depth, science-based information across a range of critical factors, including nutrition, physical activity, sleep and breathing. For each of these, Working Well will give you key, data-driven insights, followed by a range of tips, tools and practical strategies to use on a daily basis to get the best out of yourself and your day.




The traditional office environment might be good for collaboration, brainstorming and serendipitous encounters, but one thing it’s not so good for is actual work. When someone needs to get their head down and give a task their undivided attention, the office is usually the last place they’d go. This has a lot to do with how distracting the traditional workspace can be. As a result, some people found that a move to remote working allowed them to up their output.


Some find their home not ideally set-up for work, and other issues can come in the form of ‘leavism’ (and general inability to ‘unplug’ from work) and a tendency to ‘sit down all day’. The Environment section of Working Well will provide you with a range of tips, tricks and tools for making your immediate workspace conducive to high levels of both wellbeing and meaningful output.

This sections looks at how to set ourselves up with ergonomics in mind, as well as explore the evidence around what benefits standing while working might bring. The first chapter of this sections also includes tips around what items to have (and not have) on and around our desk, how to maintaining better boundaries between 'work' and 'home', and how to effectively combat 'Zoom Fatigue'.


The remaining three chapters in the Environment section each takes a deep dive into controllable factors that can make a big difference to our effectiveness: light, air, and sound. These chapters explore what science tells us about the effect these have on us, and simple strategies we can deploy to get them to work in our favour. Much of the information and advice contained in this section can be applied whether working from home or in an office setting.




While being engaged with and enthusiastic about our work are things to aspire to, the end-product is all-important. Yet, many people can find that despite being busy and putting in a good shift, they don’t have much to show for it at the end of the day. Perhaps tasks on the to-do list remain undone. Maybe progress on long-range projects is painfully slow. Some people work hard just to keep their heads above water.


Working Well’s final section offers practical advice on how to manage your workload, time, schedule and yourself, so that tasks are dealt with in a timely, efficient way. It will also provide strategies for how to make progress with important, longer-term projects, while at the same time preserving personal time.


This section includes some relevant neuroscience relating to feelings of overwhelm, and what steps we can take to regain control. We will also explore the theory and practice of cognitively-demanding but meaningful work known as ‘deep work’. You will find advice on how to be productive here, including through an ability to utilise a hugely productive state known as ‘flow’. The final chapter in this section will build on this by providing advice on how to reacquire an essential skill that many of us have seen eroded over time: the ability to focus.


The advice in this section will help ensure you enjoy productive and satisfying working days, with enough time left over for things you value in your personal life, too.







A Word on Science and Experience




1.  The Two Sides of Stress


2.  Mental Resilience and Resourcefulness


3.  Breathing and Meditation for Mental Wellbeing




4.  Breathing for Physical Wellbeing


5.  What to Eat


6.  When to Eat


7.  Hydration and Fluids


8.  Sleep


9.  Physical Activity




10.  Workstation Set-Up and Remote Working


11.  Light


12.  Air


13.  Sound




14.  Prioritisation and Scheduling


15.  Deep Work and Flow


16.  Maintaining Focus and Managing Distractions




Making Change Work for You