The 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙙𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙤𝙣𝙨 is like a high-stakes game of Monopoly, where the goal is to accumulate as much cash 🤑 as possible. But instead of a title deed, in real life the resource can be clean water, arable land, the environment, virus-free air etc. (“𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙤𝙣𝙨”).
When everyone takes more than their fair share, it can lead to overuse and depletion. We all know that. But 𝙥𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙗𝙞𝙖𝙨, 𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙥𝙤𝙣𝙨𝙞𝙗𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮 𝙨𝙝𝙚𝙙𝙙𝙞𝙣𝙜, 𝙨𝙚𝙡𝙛-𝙞𝙣𝙩𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙨𝙩 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙝𝙚𝙧𝙙 𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩𝙖𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙮 drive us to overuse and deplete anyway. Here are some examples:
Information and imposition of fines can only do so much. What if, instead, we could make it easy, attractive, social and timely for people to NOT overuse common resources? Let’s take the example of reducing the energy bill at work.
How to reduce office energy bills
Reducing energy usage at the workplace is not always as simple as encouraging remote working or turning down the thermostat (though it sometimes is…). The amount of energy used depends on how employees act in the office. it follows that, to cut energy bills and emissions, 𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙤𝙮𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙢𝙪𝙨𝙩 𝙛𝙖𝙘𝙞𝙡𝙞𝙩𝙖𝙩𝙚 𝙖 𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙛𝙩 𝙞𝙣 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙬𝙖𝙮 𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙤𝙮𝙚𝙚𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚. But unlike when people use energy in their own homes, employees don’t directly bear the cost of the energy they use in their office. They take it for granted and leave the bosses to worry about it. Also, sharing workplace facilities with many colleagues makes people feel that their actions won’t make a big difference in this context. This is a classic example of the 𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙙𝙮 𝙤𝙛 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙢𝙤𝙣𝙨. Some good news! 𝙀𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙤𝙮𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙚 𝙨𝙤𝙢𝙚 𝙪𝙣𝙞𝙦𝙪𝙚 𝙡𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧𝙨 𝙩𝙤 𝙨𝙝𝙞𝙛𝙩 𝙗𝙚𝙝𝙖𝙫𝙞𝙤𝙧𝙨:
staff are bound by organizational policies
they look to their employers and colleagues for guidance on how to behave whilst at work
they can be held accountable for their workplace behavior.
So then, wow can employers encourage staff to use less energy in the workplace? Drawing on their EAST framework, UK's Behavioural Insights Team suggests that to encourage employees to save energy at work, employers need to 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙚 𝙞𝙩 𝙚𝙖𝙨𝙮, 𝙖𝙩𝙩𝙧𝙖𝙘𝙩𝙞𝙫𝙚, 𝙨𝙤𝙘𝙞𝙖𝙡 𝙖𝙣𝙙 𝙩𝙞𝙢𝙚𝙡𝙮.
Make it Easy
Automating desk cluster plugs to switch off if unused for 15-minutes resulted in energy savings of up to 20% compared to non-automated plugs.
Automation through desktop apps helped employees reduce energy use by up to 38% if used to control laptops, monitors, phones and desk lights.
Occupancy sensing heating systems reduce energy consumption by 17-24%.
Make it Attractive
When salient messaging through posters and “turn it off” stickers was combined with strong messaging from the CEO and senior staff modelling energy saving, it resulted in a sustained 30% reduction in the number of monitors on as well as smaller reductions in hard drives and lights.
Selecting ‘exemplary employees’ to demonstrate energy saving behaviors in the office, and publicly rewarding them, can reduce energy consumption by 5-12%.
Competitions can be effective too. Back in 2010, the UK government used a competitive approach to reduce energy consumption of departments, publishing monthly performance tables with a real-time display of energy consumption in the resorts. They even held a real competition to see which building could save the most energy. After a year of this initiative, the government saved 10% of its energy consumption.
Make it Social
Personalized feedback about the specific sources of energy waste at the employee level led to a 50% reduction in leaving computers on during lunch and a 75% reduction in leaving them on at the weekend.
Social feedback by letting customers know how much energy they spend compared to their more efficient neighbors can lead to small but sustained usage reductions.
Assigning a member of staff to be a dedicated ‘behavioral energy advisor‘ who provides personalized help and support (as well as monitoring) to colleagues can also help reduce energy consumption.
Make it Timely
The “fresh start” effect refers to the feeling of empowerment we get from having a clean slate. This means that an ideal time to pursue a change is after a salient temporal landmark (a fresh start): like the beginning of the week, new year, our birthday, a new job, graduation etc. In our workplace context, prompts to save energy could be embedded into onboarding packages to help build positive habits for newcomers.