Cultural Artifacts, Commitment, and Behavior in the Workplace

How will you reach your 10,000 steps today?
How will you reach your 10,000 steps today?

So you want to become more active. How do you make it stick? In a workplace context, office artifacts can help motivate and sustain changes in behavior like walking more. Here’s an example of how.

I was recently walking through the halls at a different company location from where I usually work when a bright burst of color caught my eye. One team had hung a blackboard in their office area where they scrawled different ideas for how to reach 10,000 steps that day. I loved this board–it’s doing a lot of things right in helping people commit to movement:

  • It makes the commitment public, which can promote better follow-through
  • BUT it is also semi-anonymous, which helps people who are more private still benefit
  • It marshals social support for behavior change
  • It’s fun and funny. Weaving jokes into a health behavior change can make it more palatable (although attaching your Fitbit to the dog is decidedly NOT an effective technique to get more activity)
  • It’s eye catching. Because the board is in an obvious place, bright, and hard to ignore, it serves as a cue to people to change their behaviors in the moment
  • It serves as a cultural artifact–the visible level of culture–that indicates a playful, accepting work environment
  • It’s consistent with the mission of Johnson & Johnson more broadly to support a healthy workforce

This chalkboard is a really simple strategy that helps make physical activity an accepted behavior within a particular office culture. If there’s a behavior you want to see become acculturated in your workplace, think about the types of physical artifacts you might introduce to support it. In particular, if you can find a fun way for people to publicly commit to their goals, you may be surprised at the changes you see.