Over the past five years, I’ve been involved ever more frequently in advising on and assisting in developing culture change projects. Organisations are more aware than ever of the impact of environment on our behaviour and in turn our productivity and wellbeing.
Evidence-based studies have demonstrated that happy people are productive people and that nature is hugely beneficial to wellbeing.
Despite the large body of evidence supporting the benefits of exposure to nature, many organisations prohibit personalising desks and the presence of plants, for example; two simple things that can have remarkable, positive effects on everyone.
The scientific interest, studies and research into the impact of nature on wellbeing has received much academic attention from the likes of the American Psychological Association and Cornell and Stanford Universities.
One key study often cited found that office workers with a view of nature liked their jobs more, enjoyed better health and reported greater life satisfaction.
It may seem overly simplistic but the academic, scientific evidence is irrefutable and has been mounting since the 1970s when psychologists first became interested in the power of restorative environments.
The importance of simple
And simple is the key here – all too often organisations believe that in order to achieve positive, efficacious culture change, they must seek advanced, complex and inevitably expensive consultation and physical changes.
In the 1970s psychologists first became interested in the power of restorative environments.
However, in the 12 years I have travelled the world lecturing and presenting on behaviour change, all of the people I have met and the organisations I have worked for have one key element, which unites them: their people all want to do a good job, provide for their family and have purpose.
Creating environments where people can thrive, to do their job well and experience high self worth and feel valued, with a clear purpose to their efforts is the foundation to all successful culture change projects.
Pride often comes from a sense of ownership, so allowing people to display certificates and achievements at work, to remind them of purpose and value by permitting photographs of their family, or pictures their children have drawn, for example, and to accept the research that nature has a huge impact on our behaviour and including plants and images of nature in your environment are simple yet extremely cost-effective and highly behaviour-effective changes.
My own research project into the impact of nature and how it can create happy, healthy and more profitable working environments, The Good Life Project, is testimony to this.
Binary feedback systems
Environment aside, another simple change organisations can make to help improve culture is to ensure binary feedback systems are in place.
It’s no good simply asking for ideas, suggestions, improvements and to essentially keep taking from employees because unless the value, use and impact of their suggestions is communicated, there is little to reinforce them to invest.
Pride often comes from a sense of ownership.
The timeline of ideas should be communicated publicly, so individuals can see who has seen their idea and what is happening with it.
Human behaviour works on binary feedback loops: we exhibit more of a behaviour if it is reinforced and less of others if they are punished.
Reinforce the things you want to see more of and you’ll create a culture where your people are willing to share and focused on positive change – it is much more effective than punishing and you avoid exacerbating a culture of fear, where behaviours and ideas are repressed and covered up.