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Behavioral Science And Workplace Wellbeing

I'm not a trained behavioral scientist, but my lawyer-brain does understand a couple things: 1) Influencing wellbeing is largely about changing behavior, and 2) Changing behavior-- particularly, in a diverse group such as a group of employees-- requires both thought and attention. 

Do our law firms need to engage a behavioral scientist to identify change, or target a particular behavior? I don't think so-- a great deal of what a behavioral scientist might offer can be learned by any curious professional who is so inclined and reads articles or books written by others who formally study the subject. Understanding that is ultimately borne of humility-- which is something I learned in prepping for, and taking, countless expert depositions.

According to Drewberry's 2021 Employee Benefits survey (the kind of resource relied upon by behavioral scientists), more than half of employee-respondents reported that they expect their benefits to provide for personal wellbeing. And a significant portion of the research examining the question of why health behavior is so challenging in the workplace, concludes that key factors related to the adoption of a new behavior aren't always identified and aligned.

What are those factors? Well, it'll surprise you to learn that they're few in number, and pretty obvious. First, and foremost, is knowledge-- yep, education (the "what" ) . It's a key indicator in predicting successful change. Second, is the identification of a motivation for a desired behavioral change-- the "why", if you will. Third, and finally, is the notion that one should focus on one behavior at a time, and establish small, attainable goals-- the "how", in a manner of speaking.* What, why and how.

I don't mean to be blithe, or at all disrespectful of behavioral science. It certainly has its place, and the women/men who dedicate themselves to the discipline are doubtless well-intended-- they obviously pursue their chosen field in order to advance the cause of wellbeing, not to hinder it.

But we can't lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is to do, not simply to study-- we can't miss the forest, for the proverbial trees!

The reference source for the above-summarized observations is an article written by psychologist and author Gethin Nadin, entitled: "Can behavioral science help us to improve employee wellbeing?".


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