INTHEBLACK July 2020 - Page 54



THE IDEAL NUDGE
Easy: defaults, simplifying messages or removing the
hassle factor // Attractive: rewards, recognition, making
the healthy option fun // Social: creates networks,
encourages accountability buddies // Timely: occurs in a
receptive moment when key decisions are being made
WORK
SMART
// H E A LT H BY S T E A LT H
BY INTEGRATING WELL-DESIGNED ‘NUDGES’ INTO THEIR WORKERS’ DAY-TO-DAY
ROUTINE, ORGANISATIONS CAN HARNESS THE POWER OF HEALTH BY STEALTH.
A NUDGE IN THE
RIGHT DIRECTION
STORY THEA O’ CONNOR
“No time” is one of the most
common reasons Australians give
for not engaging in healthier
behaviour, such as more exercise
or cooking nutritious meals.
What if you didn’t have to
make more time to attend to your
health because it was integrated
into every working day?
That’s the potential of “the
nudge”. A nudge is a tweak in
design that makes healthy
choices the easier ones, while
preserving our freedom to
choose. A simple example is
placing fruit, rather than less
healthy snacks, at the canteen
cash register.
Nudge theory was developed
by Richard Thaler, co-author of
the influential book Nudge,
Improving Decisions About
Health, Wealth, and Happiness
and the winner of the 2017 Nobel
Prize in Economic Sciences.
Thaler’s theory is born of
behavioural economics, which
58 ITB July 2020
recognises and takes advantage
of the fact that, most of the time,
we act out of habit or in response
to our environment, rather than
due to conscious deliberation.
One example of a nudge that
can be used to improve people’s
health and wealth is to make the
“better” choice, such as
participating in a savings plan,
the default option. This technique
plays on our autopilot tendency
to stick with the status quo,
because it’s too much bother to
change, even for our own good.
We are still free, however, to opt
out of the savings plan if we truly
object to it.
When the Healthier Queensland
Alliance piloted its My health for
life program for men in a maledominated transport company in
mid-2019, it made good use of
healthy defaults.
When faced with the common
challenge of low rates of
engagement, the organisation
decided to change participation
in the program’s health checks
from opt-in to opt-out. Working
with key influencers to make this
change, the company increased
participation in the program by
20 per cent.
SUBTLE, EVERYDAY NUDGES
Nudging isn’t a new concept
to Katrina Walton, director of
Brisbane-based Wellness
Designs, a boutique workplace
wellness business.
“If a workplace identifies
physical activity as a priority, for
example, we look at how we can
influence a range of workplace
factors to make moving easier,
and not to simply educate
individuals and hope they’ll
change,” Walton says.
She offers the examples of
walking or standing meetings,
encouraging workers to “walk an
email” when possible, moving
bins and printers to a distant
place in the building, wireless
headsets for call centre staff so
they can stand and move when
taking calls, or making stairwells
more attractive. “We had one
client who went so far as to
make the lifts much slower to
deter people from using them,”
Walton says.
Policy changes can also help
remove barriers to better health.
Walton gives the example of
flexible work policies that help
workers feel comfortable
spending an extra 15 minutes
of their lunch on exercise.
Daily work activities that take
up much of our time, such as
screen-based work, emails and
meetings, are particularly good
targets for healthy nudges.
Sit-stand desks are proven to
reduce prolonged sitting and
increase standing. What about
computer programs that prompt us
to take a stretch? A 2016 Australian
study of 57 workers found these
computer prompts reduced
sedentary behaviour by 8 per cent.
Whether the effects of prompts
last longer term is unknown. The
pop-ups can become annoying,
leading workers to turn them off
or ignore them. A defining
feature of an ideal nudge is that it
is timely and catches us when we
are receptive, not mid-stream on
an important task.
One company that tackled
out-of-hours emails in order to
protect its employees’ overnight
leisure time was global
management consulting firm
Boston Consulting Group (BCG).
It created a pop-up window to
appear whenever managers
attempted to send a message
after office hours.
Described in BCG’s paper, The
Persuasive Power of the Digital
Nudge, the message read: “You
are trying to send an email to
BCG users outside normal office
hours. Please choose one of the
following options: a) mark email
as low priority; b) defer sending
until the next business day; c)
send email as is; or d) cancel. The
nudge was designed to appear at
the exact moment managers
needed a reminder.
When Anushka Bandara,
co-founder of software and app
development company Elegant
Media, was exploring ways to
help his staff thrive, he decided to
transform their meetings. “Our
meetings were all sitting down,
and we would drink lots of
coffee,” Bandara says.
After eliciting ideas from staff,
Elegant Media implemented
stand-up Zoom meetings, often
punctuated by stretch breaks. Team
members are now required to drink
water or herbal teas during
meetings, avoid sugar and bring
fruit and nuts or other healthy
alternatives.
A 2019 meta-analysis found
that small, healthy food nudges
such as this can reduce daily
energy intake by up to 209 kcal,
the same number of calories
found in 21 cubes of sugar.
Nudges aren’t new. Advertisers
and retailers have exploited them
for decades to prompt us to buy
stuff we don’t need and eat food
we’ve resolved to avoid. However,
nudges have probably been
underutilised by those of us
promoting wellbeing at work.
Engaging staff in reviewing the
design of their working days and
generating ideas for embedding
healthy tweaks is likely to
generate many simple and
inexpensive ways to help us act
in our own best interests.
H E A LT H B Y
S T E A LT H C A N B E
SIMPLE, CHEAP
AND EFFECTIVE
Sticking colourful footprints
on a set of stairs prompted
a significant increase in stair
use over a six-week period,
according to one workplace
study. When the footprints
were removed, stair use
decreased again.
Labelling some foods as
unhealthy and placing them
below eye level in a hospital
cafeteria reduced the number
of people eating them.
CPA
LIBRARY
To read the ebook Creating Healthy Workplaces: Stress Reduction,
Improved Wellbeing, and Organizational Effectiveness by Caroline Biron,
Ronald J. Burke and Cary L. Cooper, visit: cpaaustralia.com.au/library
intheblack.com July 2020 59

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