10 clever ways to nudge your workplace to move more and sit less

Every day we make countless decisions. What to wear? What to eat? What to watch on Netflix?

While we like to think that every one of our decisions is completely and entirely our own, the truth is that our choices can easily be influenced, even by small things, even by things we hardly even realize are there—researchers call these nudges.

A nudge is something that gently guides you to act in a certain way without limiting your choices. It’s something that indirectly affects your behaviour in a predictable way. Ideally, a healthful nudge will prompt you to move more and sit less. In fact, the British Medical Journal recently published a commentary that concluded nudging to cue certain behaviours can be “extremely effective.”

NUDGING IN THE WORKPLACE

In the workplace, nudges can be used to encourage people to sneak in extra physical activity and limit hours of uninterrupted sitting. They’re a wonderful way to help shift the overall culture of an organization to one that embraces and supports physical activity. Though typically small and subtle, they can have huge impacts on a company and its employees.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD NUDGE

Nudges can include signs, posters, emails, apps, objects and more. A good one should:

  • Use simple messaging that’s easy to understand
  • Be personalized, contextual, or tailored in some way
  • Contain educational or awareness-building information
  • Include a direct and specific call-to-action
  • Be interactive in some way, if possible

10 EXAMPLES OF AWESOME WORKPLACE NUDGES

1. A sign by the elevator that encourages everyone to take the stairs. “Elevate your health. Dare to take the stairs!”

2. An hourglass timer on the boardroom table that runs out every 30 minutes, prompting people to take a break from sitting.

3. A handy map that’s kept in a common area that highlights all the nearby hiking and biking trails.

4. A sign in the parking lot that prompts people to park farther away and walk more instead. “Park far away. Walk and enjoy your day!”

5. A kind word when you notice your coworker taking an active break, like going for a 10-minute walk.

6. A note at the end of your meeting invitation that explains sitting is optional during the meeting.

7. A designated activity space in the office with yoga mats, jump ropes, or dumbbells. Whatever works with your space and budget that gives the impression that movement is permitted.

8. An email letting your coworkers know that you’ll be taking a half-hour walk at lunch and that they’re welcome to join you.

9. A sticky note on your desktop computer reminding you to stretch for a minute or two every 30 minutes.

10. A pair of good running shoes you keep under your desk so that you always have comfortable footwear on-hand.