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How many times do you think you’ve been nudged today?  Do you even realise you have been nudged?  And if you have, has it been positive?

Lots of questions, but first what is nudge?

Well, we have to thank Richard Thaler, 2002 Noble prize winner and his book Nudge, for coining the phrase ‘ nudge theory’.  I covered this off in a recent blog ‘What is the nudge theory?  And why should you care?.  But I’ll recap here.   

Nudge is an small feature in the environment that attracts someone’s attention and influences the behaviour that they make.  Nudging is done by, what is called, a choice architect.  A choice architect is someone that influences the choices that we make.

Some examples of where someone, maybe even you, has been a choice architect?

Take your staff canteen:  Someone had to decide the order in which the salad bar is laid out.  Someone had to decide whether confectionery is located at the check-out?   All these things are conscious decisions based on the outcome or objective of the action.   In this video, the objective was to see how the way food is presented (laid out) influences healthy eating habits

Take your workspace design / layout:  Someone had to design how your office workspace is laid out.  Adopting behavioural insights in the workplace has been proven to boost employee happiness, engagement and reduce stress.   In addition to this, using behavioural insight can help boost other behaviours – such as recycling.

Workspace Nudge from Haworth Inc. on Vimeo.

In this video, Joanne Reinhard, an advisor at the UK Behavioural Insights Team, aka “the Nudge Unit,” and works with the UK Government, sets out three steps to achieving success regardless of what behaviour you wish to ‘nudge’.

Step 1:  Find out what works

Step 2:  Nudge users into doing more

Step 3:  Make it bigger

Joanne goes on to say “Choice architecture” is the way choices are presented – be it the layout of supermarkets or the default settings on your phone. The Behavioural Insights Team was spun out of the government and now works with a variety of organisations to find ways to support happier, more engaged employees. Using rigorously design experimental models, her team tests ways to nudge people – be they investment bankers or government employees – to make better decisions. Nudges can be a very cost effective way to get a lot of people to change their behavior, she explained. “It’s easy to get 25 people to change the way they deliver a service,” Reinhard said. “But how about 25,000?”

So, how can you become a choice architect and how can you boost (nudge) positive recycling behaviours at work.

Step 1:  Find out what works.   

Choose your test subjects – in a large scale call centre, this could be one floor, one sub-department such as the accounts team.  Change the position, layout, order and graphics of your recycling area – whether this be a set of individual recycling bins with WRAP consistent colours/labels or a recycling station with corporate sustainability branding.     We helped one major UK brand in their efforts to nudge their workplace into positive recycling behaviours with a recycling station similar to this.

Here is just some of the feedback.

  • Since the installation of the new bin stations at the office in Cardiff we have received no further complaints around the bins overflowing.Indoor Office Recycling Station
  • The number of collections throughout the day have reduced by 50% on the office floors
  • The collections in the refreshment rooms have been reduced from 4 to 3 during the day and this is now mainly the DMR waste stream.
  • Since the installation of the new bin stations we have also seen an increase in the DMR waste stream.  Staff are paying more attention to how they are segregating their own waste.
  • The reduction in bin collections during the day has resulted in us being able to make better use of the day janitors time and has provided us with an additional 3 hours a day out of his previous schedule to enable other tasks to be included into his daily schedule.

Step 2:  Nudge users into doing more.. and Step 3:  Make it bigger

Now that you have identified what works, continue to do it or even consider tweaking it based on feedback.   Once you’re confident you’ve found the right formula for your business, up-scale it and roll it out across the business.

Of course,  nudging will never stop as there is always a need for continuous improvement (ISO 14001).

If you’re struggling to think of ways to ‘nudge’ try out a Nudgeathon – set up a focus group of like-minded eco focused employees and set them a task to help achieve your 2030, or even 2050 Corporate Sustainability goals.   

Sometimes, it’s helpful to see examples of recycling solutions adopted by other businesses.

To view a small collection of some of our recent projects, click here.

Alternatively, if you’re keen to learn even more? 



Recycling laws in Wales have changed. Is your business compliant?