Back to the office: A moment of change for behaviours and habits
Why our brain loves habits and routines
These systems run simultaneously but once embedded changing habits can be challenging and require attention and focus.
The impact of the pandemic
“Moments of change’ are when individual life circumstances shift within a short time frame, and include biographical and external changes (e.g., becoming a parent, travel disruption)” Professor Lorraine Whitmarsh MOCHA project
Suddenly even the simplest activity required our high-energy system 2 brain – to navigate a 2 metre distance, a one-way system or find the hand sanitiser. The daily commute, grabbing a takeaway coffee and lunch en-route disappeared overnight.
A moment for environmental and social awareness
Using ‘back to the office’ for pro-environmental habits
While old work habits have been broken this is the perfect opportunity to introduce new ones. Here are some suggestions, but remember the change in routines will be tiring for people returning to work. Don’t overwhelm people with too many actions and requests.
Change the defaults
- Remove the ‘easy option’ and the negative defaults e.g. under desk bins, or general waste bins isolated from recycling bins (always have together), disposable cups in coffee machines and canteens
- Set up and brief in new systems for waste management and recycling as part of your back to work inductions
Trial new habits
- Celebrate those modelling the desirable pro-environmental behaviours to reinforce new social norms
- Share updates from top-management about the changes in their behaviours and the organisation, to enforce importance
- Use positive language to reinforce the desirable behaviours rather than focusing on the negative behaviours:
- Avoid words like ‘should, must, have to’ these are negative and toxic and imply effort
- Use ‘Thank you for doing X’ rather than ‘Please don’t do Y’
- Use motivators that resonate with people e.g. rather than talking about environmental benefits talk about the personal benefits
Getting to grips with behaviour change
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