The psychology behind sustainability efforts is not often considered and should be kept in mind as businesses develop means to promote well-being and all aspects of health in their organization. Sustainability efforts keep employees motivated, inspired, and engaged all while increasing company productivity!
Understand that positive psychology is the study of the strengths that enable individuals and communities to thrive.
The field is founded on the belief that people want to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives, to cultivate what is best within themselves, and to enhance their experiences of love, work, and play.
The science behind positive psychology can be used to shift employee’s mindset from drearily drudging on at work completing tasks without much passion or forethought, to focusing on the promotion of personal growth and positive experiences in the workplace.
Worldwide, society as a collective group needs to change its attitude towards sustainability in order for real change to be set in motion. When it comes to issues of ecological stability and sustainability, those who have valiantly tried to get the message out have largely failed at making it personally relevant.
Studies have shown the public does not see environmental issues as something that they are likely to experience or be affected by.
This is particularly true of global climate change: despite a great deal of sound scientific evidence and media attention, only a small number of people, 35%, believe that climate change will harm them or their families, whereas about 61% believe it will harm future generations and plant and animal species.
Change begins with you. And workers in all fields.
Based on empirical research, we address initiatives that inspire driven and committed change, motivating individuals to choose sustainability over the way things have traditionally been done. We can collectively foster mental wellness and the elements of positive psychology for all employees.
Barriers can be:
● physical, like additional expenses
● cultural or social, such as strange looks from coworkers when you bring your own reusable container for a meal, or
● bystander confusion
People respond more positively to a behavior, and will imitate that behavior, when there is social proof for it. So, we need to provide direct evidence to employees that a large number of people are behaving a certain way.
As environmental writer Janisse Ray writes, our current world climate situation is the result of society-wide bystander confusion. We interpret everyone else’s lack of action to mean that there’s nothing to be done, therefore inaction is mutual.
Though most people who are concerned about environmental issues and sustainability understand that the environment is not something “out there,” a significant number of people think of “the environment” as a separate entity, like “the moon” or “the trade deficit.”
Why should we be concerned about saving this separate, irrelevant entity, particularly if it involves personal sacrifice or has broader economic consequences? Put a stop to this type of thinking.
Humans are biologically hard-wired to be especially interested in anything that is related to our own selves, as historically our survival has depended on it.
Also understand the impact of message framing. This is the notion of presenting facts from a particular perspective.
As a broad example, rather than saying an issue impacts “the environment” which is too vast and tends to not capture people’s personal investment, focus on how employees can too reap benefits from these aspirations, and how implemented changes to go green will also foster a better work environment.
5 ways to make sustainability relevant and easy in your workplace:
1. Break everyone into sustainability teams!
Make sure everyone is equally informed and educated about company-wide initiatives so that no is a confused bystander.
2. Create monthly green challenges for your team!
For example, challenge the whole office to go head-to-head abstaining from using plastic straws and utensils for a full month during lunch, and the winners could receive fun gift cards or snacks.
3. Lay off the thermostat!
Workplaces are often over-air-conditioned, especially during the summer months. Employees can inquire about increasing the setpoint to reduce energy use.
4. Go paperless!
There are so many different platforms for sharing work and documents in a professional setting, find the ones that work for your business and encourage people to print less when possible. This will reduce your carbon footprint, and even efficiency as it could even make completing tasks faster.
5. Encourage employees to have desk plants and maximize natural light around the office!
It does not have to be lavish, a little goes a long way. Natural light when possible not only saves energy (lowering your utility bill!), but it also sets the body’s circadian rhythm, keeping everyone more alert. Plants produce oxygen, offsetting any chemicals released into the air by new office furniture and making a cleaner, happier space for your people to work in!
The list is endless and can really be tailored to your business’s needs!
Encourage employees to take their own initiative and create their own plan on how they can treat their environment better, and really feel connected to the Earth and part of a larger picture.
When your employees are motivated to act, they will reach their full potential at work, and feel passionate about the work they’re doing in the first place. They will be more involved, with a deeper sense of responsibility and ownership in their work. This leads to companywide increased productivity, lower turnover rates, and ultimately increased business performance.