You’ve tried sending out memos, putting up posters and issuing gentle reminders, but nothing keeps employees from leaving their extra papers behind at the copier. You feel like a den mother, constantly cleaning up after everyone.
What’s the best way to get people to change their habits?
Answer: Change their environment.
Start by looking at the office environment where the problem exists, and ask yourself and others what’s holding them back from changing. Ask how a different setup—or removing obstacles—might create different habits.
For example, what if you removed the table where the papers seem to pile up, so there was no place for people to put them?
Other examples of the effect environment can have on behavior:
Remove cubical walls if you want people to communicate more.
Take down barriers between a receptionist and guests to make your office feel more welcoming.
Arrange chairs in a circle if you want a group to interact more.
Streamline or simplify your timesheets and expense reports if you want people to fill them out.
— Adapted from “The Easiest Way to Change People’s Behavior,” Peter Bregman, Harvard Business’s “How We Work” blog.
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