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If employees are resisting hybrid working, a gentle nudge might be needed

When planning to adopt a hybrid work model businesses must not assume that every employee will embrace a hybrid environment. Employees may be uncomfortable with an abrupt transition back to the office or to a hybrid working pattern. But there may be another way to manage this transition and address wellbeing issues at the same time.

One method that could help businesses foster a more positive and inclusive culture for employees is nudge theory. This is the concept that, because humans, to some degree, are inherently averse to change, small suggestions work best to subtly change someone’s behaviour. These nudges can positively impact a person’s wellbeing.

Nudge theory has been widely adopted in consumer technology, from smartwatches to mobile apps. For example, exercise apps remind users to keep active and up their step count, while personal finance apps encourage users to save by moving small cash sums into a savings account. These reminders have become a part of many people’s daily habits.

Nudge theory can be applied in the workplace, too. By combining data and AI with behavioural science, organisations can nudge employees to adopt beneficial practices.

We’ve been using nudge theory with our global remote workforce and have seen improved employee productivity and overall wellbeing: since adopting nudges, staff are 6% less likely to leave and 8% more productive.

Unlike old-fashioned notifications, which employees find to be a nuisance, nudges are designed to be precise and personalised. In the same way a smartwatch encourages users to stand up after a period of inactivity, employees receive personalised nudges at the right moments — they are indirect suggestions or subtle reminders encouraging them to make small changes that will boost their wellbeing in the long term.

To achieve this, companies can rely on nudge theory platforms that can be embedded in tools that employees use day-to-day, like Microsoft Outlook and Teams. Simple examples of nudges include automatic prompts to not send emails out of a person’s office hours, alerts to encourage more breaks, or reminders to book time off in the employee’s calendar for learning, lunch or exercise.

This solution can enable organisations to stay in touch with remote employees and helps to address any issues they are having. The technology can also provide the company with insights it can use to create long-lasting, positive employee experiences.

A major consideration is ensuring that this system is not used to spy on employees. Looking specifically at Avanade’s nudge theory platform, data is aggregated, so no insights at an individual level are available. Ultimately, this comes back to the values of the organisation — if the technology is being used in the right way and for the right purpose, it shouldn’t become a concern.

Nudges are about removing the noise, reinforcing the right behaviours and ultimately giving employees reminders at the right time without it becoming a nag platform. Ahead of the return to the office, nudge theory could help your employees become the best they can be.


Richard Gregory is senior director at Avanade