Safety 2014 Opening General Session Covers Habit Formation in the Workplace

Charles Duhigg's presentation for Safety 2014 covers habit forming in the workplace and how getting a grasp on bad habits can improve one's work environment.

ORLANDO - ASSE's conference, Safety 2014, kicked off Monday with a presentation from New York Times staff writer and Pulitzer Prize winner Charles Duhigg. His presentation, "The Power of Habit," explored the science behind habit formation and how understanding everyday habits can help companies improve their workers‚ overall health and safety.

Duhigg started his presentation by discussing the neurology behind habit formation and how daily safety compliance can affect how happy and healthy people are. He pointed out that those who sit for a stretch of 45 minutes have a declining working memory. Standing for just 15 minutes can improve and jumpstart that memory. In addition, Duhigg pointed out that 40-45% of our daily activities are habits - when these habits occur, there is a "valley" in our thinking and our brains essentially turn off.

Duhigg then pointed out that some habits matter more than others. For example, exercise. Those who exercise are less likely to eat unhealthily, procrastinate and spend money excessively. He used anecdotes from various companies - including Starbucks, the London Underground and Alcoa - to address the concept of habit formation and how it can be either detrimental or beneficial to employee health and safety.

One point that Duhigg stressed was the importance of having rewards for good performance that employees are actually going to value˜ones that deliver an emotional payoff. He also stressed the importance of the need to piggyback on existing habits instead of trying to change them completely, as many „bad‰ habits exist for good reasons until an unexpected consequence occurs.

Duhigg concluded his presentation by discussing willpower and the connection between those with strong willpower and their success in life. Teaching employees willpower and making it a habit can in turn help people succeed. He also pointed out that companies can truly help improve the health and safety of their employees by finding what type of change seems the most frightening at their organization and then acting upon that change.

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