The great reset: How to inspire employee behaviour

Nudge theory is an influential concept in behavioural economics that positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions can influence the behaviours and decision-making of groups or individuals. Perhaps the most well-known nudge is the placement of duty-free shops in airports terminals all over the world.

Nudging has important lessons for those responsible for creating and cultivating the employee experience, both in the office and at home. COVID-19 has laid the foundations for a ‘Great Reset’ in work and workplaces. For a variety of reasons, the offices that people return to when the health crisis finally ends will feel drastically different to how they were before March 2020—maybe not immediately but over time as organisations adapt to the morphing needs and expectations of their employees.

We know through our work with some of the world’s leading companies that corporate real estate, HR and workplace teams have already begun to carry out design hackathons with multiple departments, using the home working data they have collected to develop nudges. The insights from the home working data and the lessons they have reinforced about office working will help these organisations influence employee behaviour, create exceptional environments and reinvent the employee experience.

Here are some key factors to consider:

Making employees proud
In 2018, US-based cybersecurity company Rapid 7 achieved Leesman+ scores (marks of 70 or above out of 100) for its two workplaces in LA and Boston. One of the leadership team’s core goals was to create a space with clients and visitors in mind. The organisation wanted the lobby to feel like a “semi-public space” that was alive and inviting for guests. Its solution was to design a casual, buzzy business hub with plenty of informal seating. The results were emphatic: 99% of employees in Boston reported that the workplace is somewhere they are ‘proud to bring visitors to’.

The past few months of home working will have emphasised the crucial role that the office plays when it comes to hosting visitors and potential client in the minds of many leaders. As a result, forward-thinking organisations need to think about whether their workplace reflects the values they want to transmit, especially in public or client-facing areas, and figure out how to inspire pride in employees for as long as offices are closed.

Creating a sense of community
In line with its efforts to create a public-friendly space, Rapid 7 also wanted to develop a stronger bond with the local community. The business worked with a local art company to commercialise the artwork of homeless people in the surrounding area. That artwork is on display and on rotation in Rapid 7’s Boston office. Again, the results were overwhelmingly positive: 92% of employees in the space reported that their workplace ‘contributes to a sense of community’.

Right now, the pandemic is damaging that sense of community for hundreds of thousands of organisations around the world. So, it’s up to those responsible for designing and managing workplaces to figure out how to rebuild and maintain it when the world reopens again.

Supporting social interaction
This year, London-based co-working provider The Office Group (TOG) enlisted Leesman to perform a home working survey of its members when lockdown forced its doors to shut. The aim was to understand how its spaces would need to evolve as a result of the changes brought about by the pandemic. If employees have the option to work from home, why should they choose a co-working space like the ones TOG provide?

The study revealed that TOG members were unsatisfied with social interaction offered by their home environments. Only 54% of respondents felt connected to their colleagues while at home. Our survey also found that the members had all the technology they needed at home. In fact, 92% reported that they had sufficient access to software programs and applications.

Together, these two data points have important implications for nudging behaviours in the future. Employers need to make a critical decision: improve technology in the workplace if they want people to leave the home or make it clear that the office is only for specific activities, especially ones that are community-focused in nature like social interaction. How does your workplace support informal get-togethers? A stuffy environment full of neat rows of desks and closed-off meeting rooms is almost certain to give employees the wrong impression.

Staying connected
In 2016, Coca-Cola European Partners (CCEP) embarked on journey to transform its head office in Stockholm. The leadership team wanted a workplace that matched the prestige of its parent company, while employees felt detached from the original space, which was silent, grey and empty. In a Leesman pre-occupancy survey, just 39% of respondents said that the workplace contributed to a sense of community.

The solution was to create a vibrant, exciting space full of nods to the Coca-Cola brand and its history in the design. Its work flipped employee sentiment. In the post-occupancy survey of the space, 88% of staff responded positively to the community question, while 97% reported that the new workplace had a positive impact on corporate image for visitors, clients and potential recruits.

There are lessons here for organisations, as they plan the future workplace. Finding fun, inventive ways – or nudges – to incorporate the brand into the design can bring the values and culture of an organisation to life and create a community in the process.

Covid nudge checklist:

  • Think about what you want your workplace to say about your organisation
  • Find new ways to host visitors, including potential clients
  • Work at creating a sense of community that isn’t dependent on the physical space
  • Establish how the workplace can support employees
Read more Covid working articles