15 Examples of Workplace Nudging

Photo by Susan Yin on Unsplash

Watch: 10 HR Trends for 2022 – From Adaptation to Transformation

10 HR Trends for 2022


Wikipedia defines nudging as follows: “Nudge is a concept in behavioural science, political theory and economics which proposes positive reinforcement and indirect suggestions as ways to influence the behaviour and decision making of groups or individuals. Nudging contrasts with other ways to achieve compliance, such as education, legislation or enforcement”.

Thaler & Sunstein, in their book Nudge, give the following definition: “Any aspect of the choice architecture that alters people’s behavior in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives… To count as a mere nudge, the intervention must be easy and cheap to avoid. Nudges are not mandates. Putting the fruit at eye level counts as a nudge. Banning junk food does not.”

According to Thaler three principles should guide the use of nudges:

  • All nudges should be transparent and never misleading
  • It should be as easy as possible to opt out of the nudge
  • There should be good reason to believe that the behaviour being encouraged will improve the welfare of those being nudged.

The Behavioral Insights Team use the EAST acronym when it comes to effectively stinulatamting behavioural change: Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely.

Examples of Workplace Nudging

Some examples of nudges that can be used in the workplace, virtual of physical. I present most examples here without references. Look at the articles in the “Further Reading section” to learn more.

1. 🍽 Smaller plates


Desired behaviour: Eat less.

Nudge: Give people a smaller plates, and they will eat less. Easy to apply at the company restaurant, less applicable in remote working situations. Although: you could send your employees a small “Thank You” plate, and hope they use it for eating.

2. 🏝 Office design: create visual islands


Desired behaviour: keep distance.

Nudge: Put workstations on dark carpet. People will have the tendency not to step on the dark carpet and so naturally keep the desired distance (example from Cushman & Wakefield).

3. 🗑 Remove all but one waste baskets

Desired behaviour: people move regularly.

Nudge: Remove all wastebaskets but one from the floor. Put one waste basket in the far-away corner, so that everybody has to walk when they want to throw something away. Lazy people will produce less waste, and that is also ok of course.

4. 🪜 Take the stairs please

Desired behaviour: More walking

Nudge: (Re)design you office in such a way that the stairs are very dominant, and the elevators hardly visible and difficult to find. People tend to choose the default option, so make sure stairs are default.

5. 🪰 Fly (or goal) in urinal

Desired behaviour: Pee inside the urinal.

Nudge: Put something in the urinal men like to aim at. A fly or a goal work, but with some fantasy you can think of many other solutions.

Read: Blake Evans-Pritchard: Aiming to reduce costs

6. 💥 Casual collisions (Or Serendipitous Encounters)

Desired behaviour: Meet some new people, outside your “bubble”.

Nudge: Choose a lively location for your HQ. Zappos one moved their HQ to downtown Las Vegas. Because of the location the changes that your employees meet new people are increased. This is not a cheap nudge. You might start, if you still use offices, by mixing departments.



7. 😷 Display portraits of ethical leaders


Desired behaviour: Ethical behaviour.

Nudge: Put pictures of people who are perceived as ethical leaders on the walls or on the desktop of the computers. Research has shown that this will stimulate people who less unethical behaviour. I won’t mention examples, please make your own list.

Source: Re:Work editors: Nudge people to encourage ethical behavior

8. 🖨 Make printing difficult


Desired behaviour: Printing less, walking more.

Nudge: Remove all the printers but one from the floor or office. Everybody can use this printer.

Read: 9 sneaky ways to get employees to print less

9. 🍎 Fruit on eye level

Desired behaviour: Eating healthy snacks (like fruit).

Nudge: Make fruit and other snacks easily accessible and put them where they are clearly visible. Put the unhealthy snacks high or low in the cupboard. People still have a choice, but there is a friendly nudge in the desired direction.

10. 🏡 Provide flexible desks at home

Desired behaviour: Less sitting, more standing.

Nudge: Provide people with a flexible desk, at home or in the office. At this desk you can alternate sitting and standing. Is this a nudge? Maybe the desk should ask now and then: “Do you want me to move to the standing position?”.

11. 🥎 Dress in tracksuit


Desired behaviour: More exercise.

Nudge: Ask some of your employees to wear their sports wear in the office or during video calls. Other people might think: this is a good idea, especially if opinion leaders give the good example.

12. 👐 Washing hands


Desired behaviour: Regularly washing hands.

Nudge: Include a picture of hands that are washed at the beginning of your presentations, or make it your Zoom/Teams background.

13. 🐾 Show the way with footsteps

Desired behaviour: Follow a certain route in the office.

Nudge: Paint footsteps on the floor, and people will have the tendency to follow those steps.

14. 🚶🚶🏽‍♀️Walking meeting?

Video Meeting
Standing Meeting

Walking Meeting MOST POPULAR!!

Desired behaviour: Walk more

Nudge: When people want to schedule a meeting, ask them what kind of meeting they want (Traditional, Standing, Video or Walking). Add “Most Popular” or “Chose by most people” to the Walking Meeting option.

15. 🐶 🐶🐶🐶🐶 Add a puppy


Desired behaviour: People feel good (not really a behaviour, but it might lead to some nice behaviours).

Nudge: Show a puppy. Real puppies are great, but pictures of puppies can also work. The puppies can be used everywhere (postcards, screensavers, posters).


16. 😊 Smiley on the mirror


Desired behaviour: More smiles.

Nudge: Stick a smiley on the mirror. Can be done at home and work. Send a smiley to all your staff. Put a smiley on your Zoom/Teams background.

(😁 Erik Maas)

💡17. Blue Light

Desired behaviour: More productive behaviour

Nudge: Provide cool, blue light. I am not sure this qualifies as a nudge, but if it works, who cares. You could provide your employees with an LCD lamp for at home.

Read: Mills, Tomkins & Schlangen: The effect of high correlated colour temperature office lighting on employee wellbeing and work performance

(😁 Marieke van der Giessen)




Updated November 22, 2021 / 17

Watch: 10 HR Trends for 2022 - From Adaptation to Transformation

10 HR Trends for 2022

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