How to nudge clean & collaborative co-working spaces

The other day we hosted a workshop on how to use insights from behavioural sciences to foster collaboration and improve the working environment in shared office spaces.

The goal was introduce our entrepreneurial colleges at Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship to a nudging toolbox and to create an even cleaner and happier working space. To help us develop some great ideas, we opened the workshop to the outside and we enjoyed perspectives from both researchers, consultant and people managing other co-working spaces.

At the event we identified six actions, which we think would promote a collaborative and clean co-working space:

  1. You say goodmorning to everybody
  2. If you see person, you don’t know, you present yourselves and ask what they are doing.
  3. When the dishwasher is full, you start-it, and when it is done, you empty it.
  4. You eat dinner with somebody you don’t know that well, because when break your bread, magic happens
  5. At least once a month you share a success
  6. When you meet a person who is new to the place, you offer them a guided tour.

Here is some of the nudging ideas from the crowd:

Nudge #1: Intervene in key moments: Utilize the onboarding process to set the standard.

When you onboard people in the co-working space provide them with 2 simple steps to get the most out the space: E.g. tell the new people:

  • Eat lunch people you don’t know. This is what the majority here does because it helps them boost their network.
  • Stop people you meet at the coffee machine and ask them about their business. They love to talk about it, and you may learn something new.

Nudge #2: Priming people in questionnaire and get them committed to say good morning

If you have an employee / office residential satisfaction survey include a question like:

“Workplaces where people say good morning to one another are generally experiencing a better working climate and better job satisfaction. Would you like people to say goodmorning to you?

This question could be followed up by?

“If you have just entered the office and sitting with your headphones on, would you also like a friendly goodmorning?” – Most people feel appreciated when you take time to say good morning. Are you one of them?

  1. Yes: just poke on the shoulder
  2. I would prefer that you just nodded and smiled
  3. No, I am morning grumpy and need to wake up first. We will talk at the coffee machine

The idea behind the survey is inspired by cases, where it has been shown that simply asking whether or not people plan to vote, increases voting attendance. Furthermore the data from the survey could be used at signs, in a fun email reminder etc.

Nudge #3: Personalized cups to give people a chance to be extra nice

This idea takes it starting point in the fact that people like to do small favours and to return these (the concept of reciprocity). If everybody had their own cup stating how they liked their coffee / tea, then it would easier for people to bring a cup of coffee to another and thereby create an occasion not only to say goodmorning, but to connect over the morning coffee.

Nudge #4 Change the framing of the deed of emptying the dishwasher into a possibility of networking

Make the dishwasher a place you want to hang out. Place a sofa, place encouraging dish-washing talk post it notes etc.

Nudge #5: Use an alarm to create a social commitment and make it socially rewarding to empty the dishwasher

Whenever you open the dishwasher which is finished cleaning, there will be sound which alarm everybody that you opened the dishwasher and you are responsible for emptying it. The alarm is simultaneously a cue to everybody that you should not do this alone, but others should rise from their chair and help you.

Nudge #6: Gamify dish-washing and earn beer points for the next friday bar

Nudge #7: Use a mirror to prime moral behaviour (of emptying a dishwasher)

The intervention is simply a mirror next to message: Have you remembered to empty the dish-washer. Studies have showed that a mirror showing ones reflection prime people to be more honest (and perhaps also better at doing the dishes)

Nudge #8: A well timed reminder: Clean me sticker in the bottom of the coffee cup

Timing is king when influencing behaviour. In the bottom of the cup (when people are done sipping coffee offee) a simple print like “clean me” remind people to put in the dish-washer.

Nudge #9: Talk zones

Set up a green wall to reduce noise from talking, turning the kitchen into a talk zone.

Watch our cool and creative workshop participants pitch their ideas.

Feel free to further develop the ideas and please share the result if you are testing some of them.

Again thanks a lot to the workshop participants for playing along. And a special thanks to Britta (Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship) and Tina (La Oficina) for helping introduce the case.


By Stig Nyman

I am the founder of Nudge Crowd. When I’m not working on finding inspirational challenges or developing the platform, I enjoy writing an article or two on our blog!

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