Insights on Marketing & Technology

How to nudge people towards workplace happiness

You are probably familiar with the term “Nudging”; it has been thrown around a lot in relation to health initiatives and government legislation. In this article Thomas Christensen from The Nudging Company will not describe what nudging is but instead discuss just how useful nudging is when it comes to workplace happiness.

  • By: Thomas Christensen
  • Published: 02-06-2015

Have you ever wondered why you have to walk all the way to the back end of the supermarket to get milk? Or why there are mountains of candy close to the checkout, where you always have to stand in line and wait? It is a carefully planned ploy to ensure you walk through the entire store to get to your everyday groceries, thus increasing your exposure to other items, which makes you more likely to buy something more than milk. Similarly, candy is placed where it is most likely that you will stand around bored for the slow eternity that is queuing in the supermarket. This increases the chance of you given in to your urges and purchase some candy.

Nudging is about choice management
The main thing to be aware off with nudging is that it is not a magical solution, obviously. At its most basic level, nudging is about choice management. The idea is that you present the choices available to your customers, clients or people in general, in such a way that a particular choice or set of choices seems more desirable. This sounds easier than it is. The nudge should be almost invisible, and non-invasive. Plastering large brightly coloured signs around the office with quotes on how to be happy, is not close to being nudging – nor is it likely to work.
Because nudging revolves around choices, you will have to break down complex behavioural patterns, into smaller more manageable chunks. Looking at workplace happiness, it is quite complex. Being happy at work requires a large number of things to go right, as happiness is an inherently complex behavioural pattern. Luckily, you can break down workplace happiness into two categories of effect: results and relationships. Watch the video below for more information.

This makes nudging for workplace happiness much easier.
However, one of the most severe limitations of implementing nudging, and other behavioural sciences, is their symbiotic nature. What we mean is that nudging can only enhance an existing process. It cannot create a new. Let us image that you want to create an environment where there is an added focus on results. You want to encourage employees or co-workers to share their results, but in order to nudge them towards your goal, there has to be a process in place that you can nudge them towards using. Which means that in order to use nudging you need to have a very good idea of how people interpret the processes in your organisation. This symbiotic nature also means that it is incredibly difficult to give advice on how to nudge people towards more workplace happiness within the confines of a specific organisation.

Nevertheless, we do have some tips.

  • Start by determine whether to focus on results or relationships. Workplace happiness can be complex, so it can help to focus on one of the two. Establish a specific goal you want to solve within one of the two areas. Such as “how do we make people celebrate their victories?”
  • List the processes your organisation have in the chosen subject. If your organisation is lacking in processes that can facilitate either results or relationships – you have bigger problems than nudging can fix.
  • Once you have both chosen an area of focus and have a list of the existing processes, you can begin to examine them both. You need to focus your attention on how people interpret these processes. Their original or intended purpose is less relevant compared to the interpretation.
  • Then you can rate your internal process based on which one is most beneficial to your goal.
  • Using your customers or employees sense of purpose and expectations, you can begin to shape how you want them to perceive the choices you present to them.

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Thomas Christensen

Thomas Christensen
Thomas is currently working for The Nudging Company, where he’s doing analysis, research and design and thereby helping customers to learn more about themselves and their own customers. Thomas is also the co-founder of Copenhagen Behavioral Economics Network, and calls himself a real nerd within behavior economics. Previously Thomas made a project with Arbejdsglæde Nu, which had the purpose to test the effect of different behavioral interventions in order to identify whether certain classical assumptions about the good mood fit.

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