Author: Claire Bell
Trying to implement better sustainability practices in the workplace can be …. um…trying! Using the latest brain science research findings, we’ve identified 4 barriers that may be preventing you from creating behaviour change in your workplace successfully.
Knowing the psychological barriers to behaviour change, even for something as seemingly simple as implementing a new recycling system at work, will enable you to address them more effectively with the right strategies.
Barriers to behaviour change can be explained in terms of psychological distance where things are not present in a person’s direct experience of reality. They include:
The above barriers can often be reinforced by what’s happening in the media. For example, the China Sword issue, which has placed restrictions on recycling material being sent to China for processing, has heightened these barriers for recycling. We’ve seen the headlines…
For those who identify as someone who doesn’t make the effort to recycle, these headlines will reinforce their belief and behaviour. For others, these headlines will reduce their trust in the system. This sort of negative reinforcement of barriers can have tangible effects. We may be seeing the effect of this already with Ipswich Council in QLD reporting that their contamination rates have doubled in the past year.
On a more micro level, when thinking about implementing any kind of changes in the workplace, particularly related to sustainability and changing behaviour, it’s worth considering what kind of beliefs people may hold and how those might be barriers to implementing change.
Considering the 4 barriers above may help when planning your communications to key stakeholders and staff, making your reasoning relatable, tangible and relevant to those impacted will help have a positive impact to the success of your implementation.
McDonald R.I, Chai H.Y. & Newell, B.R. (2015) ‘Personal experience and the ‘psychological distance of climate change: An integrative review’, Journal of Environmental Psychology 44, pp 109-118
Claire is Planet Ark's Recycling Campaign Manager. After working in the communications industry and raising a young family, she joined Planet Ark to follow her passion for helping the environment.
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