28
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 16, Issue 1, 2021
Using stealth marketing techniques to increase physical
activity and decrease sedentary time in the workplace: a
feasibility study investigating the spill-overs of employee
pro-environmental behaviour
Danae Manika
Brunel Business School, Brunel University London
Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH
Tel: 01895274000
Email: Danae.Manika@brunel.ac.uk
Yvonne Blokland
School of Business and Management, Queen Mary University of London
Mile End Road, Mile End, E1 4NS
Tel: 02078828570
Email: yvonne.blokland@gmail.com
Lee Smith
School of Psychology and Sport Science, Anglia Ruskin University
Cambridge Campus, East Rd, Cambridge, CB1 1PT
Tel: 01245493131
Email: Lee.Smith@aru.ac.uk
Louise Mansfield
Department of Life Sciences, Brunel University London
Kingston Lane, Uxbridge, UB8 3PH
Tel: 01895267561
Email: Louise.Mansfield@brunel.ac.uk
Markos Klonizakis
Sheffield Hallam University
City Campus, Howard Street, Sheffield, S1 1WB
Tel: 01142255555
Email: M.Klonizakis@shu.ac.uk
Abstract
Sedentary lifestyles have adverse effects on health and wellbeing and are especially
prevalent amongst office-based employees. This project goes above and beyond
currently existing physical activity initiatives in the workplace, by examining the
feasibility of using a “Bait-and-Tease” stealth marketing intervention promoting
increased physical activity and reduction of sedentary behaviour in the workplace
amongst office-based employees. The intervention focused on promoting employee
pro-environmental behaviour in the workplace (i.e., energy saving and recycling).
This was the “Bait” part of the technique, which made no reference to physical
activity. The spillovers of employee pro-environmental behaviour change on
employee physical activity and sedentary behaviour were then evaluated. This was
followed by a reveal stage, the “Tease” part of the technique, where the link between
Danae Manika, Yvonne Blokland, Lee Smith, Louise Mansfield and Markos
Klonizakis
29
health and the environment was made explicit (e.g., taking the stairs instead of the
elevator saves energy while also increasing walking time) and participants were
informed of the true purpose of the intervention. Initial employee focus groups,
grounded on the Behaviour Change Wheel framework, fed into an intervention co-
development workshop. The developed intervention, which included an informational
campaign and a green champion, was piloted within a Higher Education Institution
and targeted academics, professional service members, and postgraduate research
students as university employees with office-based jobs. The pilot involved an
intervention and a control-group, with a “before” and “after” research design. Both
self-reported (i.e., employee surveys measuring pro-environmental behaviour) and
observational (i.e., tracking walking and standing time via a mobile application,
recording sedentary time and counting stairs via trained observers) data were collected.
Results indicate that the intervention was found feasible and the pilot study shows
potential for large-scale implementation, even though the pilot sample size was small.
The goals of the study were achieved and problems in relation to recruitment,
adherence and measurements were identified with multiple future research directions.
Keywords: stealth marketing intervention; employee physical activity, employee pro-
environmental behaviour; spillovers; feasibility; pilot study
Acknowledgements: The authors would like to thank Carbon Credentials for their
involvement in all stages of the project, Rachael Millard for transcribing the focus
groups and assisting with the pilot observations, Mike Witcombe for acting as the
Green Champion, Samuel Tang, Victoria Wells, Bill Nichols, Katja Breiter, Kerry
Horvath, Alessandra McConville and Thea Hamilton for their input in creating the
intervention campaign designs; and Davit Marikyan for assistance in the literature
review. This research was funded by Cancer Research UK (C58030/A25891) and
Pilot Participant Amazon vouchers were provided as an in-kind support by Queen
Mary University of London.
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 16, Issue 1, 2021
30
1. INTRODUCTION
There is a growing body of literature on physical activity interventions in the workplace (Gardner
et al., 2017; Mansfield et al., 2018; Procter et al., 2014; Smith et al., 2015), as office workers spend
most of their working day sitting (Buckley et al., 2015) (i.e., 5.3 hours in the U.K.; Gardner et al.,
2016). Emerging research suggests that even light physical activity, including standing and slow
walking, and thus a reduction of sedentary time (Caspersen et al., 1985), “may aid in the prevention of
major non-communicable disease risk factors” (Smith et al., 2015). This is why “the workplace offers ...
an arena to promote physical activity and reduce sedentary time” (Smith et al., 2016, pp.185]. However,
research on workplace physical activity interventions, aiming to increase physical activity and reduce
sedentary behaviour at the individual employee level, reports mixed findings in regard to their
effectiveness, ranging from small effects to no significant effect (Smith et al., 2016). Most of these
studies focus on individual models or theories of behaviour change to inform intervention designs,
based on the principle that attitudes and beliefs lead to behaviour change (Smith et al., 2016).
However, knowledge does not always translate into changes in behaviour (Manika et al., 2019).
Consequently, aside from educational behaviour change interventions (e.g. Workplace Challenge;
Adams et al., 2018), research has also examined environmental modification interventions (e.g. Active
Buildings; Smith et al., 2013), and various intrapersonal, interpersonal and political level factors that
may lead to behaviour change within this context (Smith et al., 2016). This project attempts to
overcome issues faced by existing physical activity initiatives in the workplace, by using a novel,
“stealth marketing” approach and addressing calls for further research on physical activity and
sedentary behaviour in the workplace (Smith et al., 2016). Physical activity is defined, in this paper, as
any bodily movement resulting in energy expenditure including walking (Caspersen et al., 1985; Pillay
et al., 2015; NHS Choices, 2017) and standing (Healy et al., 2008; Dunstan et al., 2012; Smith et al.,
2013).
Using undercover ways of promoting a behaviour, stealth marketing cuts through the clutter, as
the target audience is largely unaware of the true intent of a recommendation and hence it catches
people when they are most open to word-of-mouth (Kaikati and Kaikati, 2004). Stealth interventions
are capable of changing behaviour towards a healthier lifestyle by motivating people to perceive
behaviour not as a burden, but as fun and rewarding. Given the evidence of stealth approaches in
stimulating physical activities, the research community has flagged the need to widely engage
marketing and media in promoting a healthy environment (Evans and Hastings, 2008). The focus on
motivational factors could make stealth marketing a primary tool in promoting a healthy environment,
against the backdrop of other behavioural interventions that have not brought sustained results so far
(Summerbell et al., 2005; Summerbell et al., 2005; Harris et al., 2009).
In line with a social/ideological movement type of stealth marketing approach (Robinson, 2010)
and given the increasing public concern over the environment which has resulted in an increasing
interest in environmental sustainability corporate social responsibility initiatives (Manika et al., 2015),
the current study focused on employee pro-environmental behaviour in the workplace and its link with
health and well-being. ‘Employee pro-environmental behaviour’ refers to employees’ measurable
actions linked to environmental sustainability (Ones and Dilchert, 2012), which are intentional and
fully under the control of employees (Mesmer-Magnus et al., 2012; Yang et al., 2018). Workplace pro-
environmental behaviours such as energy saving have been previously linked to health behaviour and
well-being (van Houten et al., 1981; Manika et al., 2017), indicating the potential spillovers of pro-
environmental behaviour change (Nilsson et al., 2017; Dolan and Galizzi, 2014; Steinhorst and
Matthies, 2016) on physical activity.
The authors developed a “Bait-and-Tease” stealth marketing intervention (Roy and Chattopadhyay,
2010), promoting increased physical activity and a reduction in sedentary behaviour in the workplace
amongst office-based employees, via advocating energy saving and recycling and examined the
spillovers of those behaviours. This intervention formed the “Bait” part of the technique, which made
no reference to physical activity. The intervention was developed based on input from employee focus
groups, which then fed into an intervention co-development workshop. The resulting intervention,
which included an informational campaign and a “green champion”, was tested within a Higher
Education Organisation and targeted academics, professional service members and postgraduate
research students as university employees with office-based jobs. The intervention involved an
intervention and a control-group, with a before and after research design. The spillovers of employee
pro-environmental behaviour change on employee physical activity and sedentary behaviour were then
evaluated. Both self-reported (i.e., employee surveys measuring pro-environmental behaviour) and
observational (i.e., tracking walking and standing time via a mobile application, recording sedentary
time and counting stairs via trained observers) data were collected. Later followed a reveal stage, the
Danae Manika, Yvonne Blokland, Lee Smith, Louise Mansfield and Markos
Klonizakis
31
“Tease” part of the technique, where the link between health and the environment was made explicit
(e.g., taking the stairs instead of the elevator saves energy while also increasing walking time) and
participants were informed of the true purpose of the intervention.
Overall, this project examined the feasibility of using a Bait-and-Tease stealth marketing
intervention, grounded on employee energy saving and recycling behaviour, as a means of increasing
office-based employees physical activity and reducing sedentary time in the workplace. After pertinent
literature is discussed on stealth marketing and the link between physical activity and pro-
environmental behaviour, followed by an overview of the theoretical framework (i.e., the Behaviour
Change Wheel) guiding our work, a series of research questions and hypotheses are developed. Then
the various stages of the feasibility study are described in detail, followed by the results within each
stage. This paper finally discusses the results across all stages, and identifies the limitations of our work
and future research directions.
2. PERTINENT LITERATURE
2.1.
Stealth marketing: linking physical activity and pro-environmentalbehaviour
Roy and Chattopadhyay (2010) note that stealth marketing as a strategy can be used “…to do good
for society, and at times to generate positive publicity”. Along with the fact that knowledge does not
always translate into behaviour change, this underscores the increasing interest in stealth marketing
interventions promoting physical activity (Riekert et al., 2014). Stealth interventions are capable of
changing behaviour towards a healthier lifestyle by motivating people to perceive behaviour not as a
burden, but as fun and rewarding. Stealth tactics have been used for obesity prevention and health
improvement through physical exercises (Cibrian, 2016; Flores, 1995). The motivation to engage in
physical activities can be achieved by deemphasizing the appeal to logic and the extrinsic benefits of
behaviour change (Harris et al., 2009; Robinson, 2010; Roblin, 2007). The main reason that may
underpin the success of stealth interventions in promoting physical activity is an individual’s self-
efficacy. Delayed benefits of the activity focused on extrinsic outcomes, such as weight loss, can
decrease self-efficacy, thus causing psychological discomfort as a result of unmet expectations and
high effort (Festinger, 1957; Robinson, 2010). To improve self-perception, people are more likely to
derogate the behaviour, thus bringing low incremental outcomes and causing psychological discomfort
(Festinger, 1957). For example, obesity among children can be prevented by redefining extracurricular
physical activities as fun, social and artistic activity, rather than a source of fatigue. Weight loss,
physical fitness, reduction in the risk of chronic diseases become the side effect of the physical
activities rather than the primary goal, while the process itself becomes the primary motivational factor
(Robinson, 2010).
The success of stealth tactics was confirmed by the “Dance for Health” initiative. This was aimed
at comparing the effect of dances versus traditional physical classes on weight loss and overall
children’s fitness. While the effect of the alternative approach was positive and significant for girls, the
experiment did not produce similar results for the boys’ group (Flores, 1995). Nonetheless, the overall
contribution of stealth interventions in the promotion of physical fitness was evident. Another
successful programme is Hunting Relics, which incorporated the elements of game and collaboration in
physical exercises in schools. The pre- and post-evaluation of children’s engagement shows a
significant difference in behaviour (Cibrian, 2016). Given the evidence of stealth approaches in
stimulating physical activities, the research community has flagged the need to widely engage
marketing and media in promoting a healthy environment (Evans and Hastings, 2008). However, to
date, stealth marketing approaches have largely been used by industries to benefit from individuals
health illiteracy (Harris et al., 2009; Roblin, 2007). Due to the ability of stealth marketing to tackle the
psychological and sociological underpinnings of behaviour, food producers use symbolic messages in
marketing to associate products with users’ self-identity (Schor and Ford, 2007). Similarly, stealth
marketing can be used for promoting the hedonic benefits of physical practices and a healthy lifestyle.
In addition, portraying something symbolically may create the perception of activity as more socially
favourable, thus affecting the attitude and subsequent behavioural intention. The focus on motivational
factors can make stealth marketing a primary tool in promoting a healthy environment, against the
backdrop of other behavioural interventions that have not brought sustained results so far (Harris et al.,
2009; Summerbell et al., 2005, Summerbell et al., 2003,).
Robinson (2010) identified three types of stealth marketing approaches for motivating behaviour
change in the health domain: 1) emphasizing incentives for the process of behaviour change rather than
the desired outcome; 2) health-promoting environments/activities that are intrinsically motivating; and
3) participation in social/ideological movements as a motivator for behaviour change, e.g.,
environmental sustainability. In line with the third approach, given the increasing public concern over
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 16, Issue 1, 2021
32
the environment, the hazards that human behaviours may pose, and the increasing interest in
environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives (Manika et al., 2015), the
current study focused on employee pro-environmental behaviour in the workplace and its link with
health and well-being.
Pro-environmental behaviours are defined as any action that intentionally seeks to minimise
negative behavioural impacts on the natural and built world (Yang et al., 2018). ‘Employee pro-
environmental behaviour’ refers to employees’ measurable actions linked to environmental
sustainability (Ones and Dilchert, 2012), which are intentional and fully under the control of employees
(Mesmer-Magnus et al., 2012; Yang et al., 2018). Increasingly, research on pro-environmental
behaviour is focusing on the workplace specifically, distinct from such behaviour in a household
context (Nye and Hargreaves, 2010; Smith and O’Sullivan, 2012; McDonald, 2014; Blok et al., 2015).
While some similar factors are important to pro-environmental behaviour in both contexts, such as the
intention to act (someone’s attitude towards the behaviour, their subjective norms, and their
behavioural control over the situation), in the workplace other factors come into play, like social norms
and leadership support (Blok et al., 2015).
In the workplace, it is much more difficult to break out of old roles and practices and establish
new ones, as behavioural changes rely for a large part on implicit social expectations (Nye and
Hargreaves, 2010). Workplace pro-environmental behaviours such as energy saving (other pro-
environmental behaviours include recycling, printing reduction and environmentally-friendly
commuting; Manika et al., 2015) have been previously linked to increased physical activity [i.e., usage
of stairs instead of a lift to save energy (van Houten et al., 1981)]. In a hospital intervention study
encouraging employee energy saving behaviour, employees perceived better job planning due to
closing doors or opening windows (which stabilises room temperatures without heating/cooling system
energy usage) and improved concentration and less discomfort/headaches from lighting (due to
switching off lights to save energy) (Manika et al., 2016). These findings indicate the potential
spillovers of pro-environmental behaviour change on health and well-being (Nilsson et al., 2016;
Dolan and Galizzi, 2014; Steinhorst and Matthies, 2016) including physical activity (although the van
Houten et al., 1981 study focused on an environmental modification intervention rather than a stealth
marketing approach promoting employee pro-environmental behaviour change). Guided by these
findings and the ‘Behaviour Change Wheel’ (Michie et al., 2011), this study examined the feasibility of
and piloted a Bait-and-Tease stealth marketing intervention, promoting increased physical activity and
reduction in sedentary behaviour in the workplace amongst office-based employees, via advocating
employee pro-environmental behaviour (i.e., energy saving and recycling) and examining its spillovers.
2.2.
The Behaviour Change Wheel framework
The stealth marketing intervention design, which focused on employee-pro-environmental
behaviour change as a way to motivate increased physical activity and reduction in sedentary time, was
guided by the Behaviour Change Wheel (BCW, Michie et al., 2011) originally conceptualised within a
health context. This framework consists of three layers: 1) sources of behaviour, 2) intervention
functions and 3) policy categories. The sources of behaviour form the core of the BCW, which is called
the COM-B system’: Capability, Opportunity and Motivation interact to generate behaviour, which in
turn can influence each of these components. The COM-B system includes Capability, both physical
and psychological (i.e. the capability to engage in the required cognitive processes); physical and social
Opportunity (i.e., reflecting environmental or contextual rather than individual attributes such as
opportunities/barriers of the physical environment and cultural norms/values, respectively); and
reflective and automatic Motivation (i.e., conscious reasoning and decision making and habitual and
emotional responses, respectively).
The next level of the BCW consists of nine behaviour change intervention functions (i.e. education,
persuasion, incentivisation, coercion, training, restriction, environmental restructuring, modelling,
enablement), each addressing a subset of the sources of behaviour. Specifically, physical training and
enabling interventions (e.g. surgery, medication) help achieve physical capability, whereas training
cognitive/emotional/behavioural skills, increasing knowledge and adopting enablers contribute to the
development of psychological capability. Developing knowledge and understanding emotions about the
behavioural target through education and training improve reflective motivation. In contrast, automatic
motivation is the result of associative and imitative learning, impulses about behavioural targets, habit
formation and the direct effect of enablers, such as medication. Environmental change/restructuring
creates both physical and social opportunity.
The final level of the BCW consists of seven policy categories enabling or supporting behaviour
change interventions: communication/marketing, guidelines, fiscal policy, regulation, legislation,
Danae Manika, Yvonne Blokland, Lee Smith, Louise Mansfield and Markos
Klonizakis
33
environment/social planning and service provision. For example, marketing and communication
policies facilitate education, persuasion, incentivisation, coercion and modelling interventions.
Guidelines, regulation and legislation address all but modelling interventions. Fiscal policy mostly
promotes incentivisation, coercion, training, environmental restructuring and enablement.
Environmental/social planning supports environmental restructuring and enabling interventions,
whereas service provision facilitates all interventions except for restriction and environmental
restructuring (Michie et al., 2014; Michie et al., 2011).
In recent years, interventions based on the BCW, and the COM-B model specifically, have been
proposed to increase physical activity or reduce sedentary time in for example people with a
cardiovascular disease risk and mental health concerns (Howlett et al., 2017) and teenage girls
(Murtagh et al., 2018). To encourage adolescent girls to walk more, Murtagh and colleagues
recommended addressing six intervention functions (i.e. persuasion, education, incentivization,
modelling, training, enablement) and eighteen behaviour change techniques, including planning, social
support, feedback and monitoring. In a study by Cibrian and colleagues (2016), COM-B was used as a
framework to design an exergame (the combination of exercises and games), aimed at promoting
collective exercise among children. ‘Active 10’, a popular mobile app introduced by Public Health
England (NHS, 2020), encourages app users to walk briskly for bouts of 10 or more minutes a day. An
integrated marketing campaign, directing target users (particularly 40-60 year olds) towards the app,
was structured around the COM-B model, targeting specific perceived barriers in the Motivation,
Opportunity and Capability dimensions (Brannan et al., 2019).
For physical activity and sedentary time behaviour change initiatives in the workplace specifically,
the literature is scarcer. In an intervention study aimed at reducing the sitting time of office-based
National Health Service (NHS) employees, the COM-B model was used to guide focus groups to
discuss barriers to and facilitators of the reduction in sitting at work (Munir et al., 2018). From the
results the authors identified seven relevant intervention functions for their intervention, which was
designed by integrating multiple BCW components. The most relevant intervention functions
highlighted by this study were Enablement, Education and Training.
The use of behaviour change theories such as the BCW for developing interventions is relatively
recent, and so far the availability of outcomes is limited. However, in a recent systematic review on
interventions aiming to reduce sedentary behaviour, the authors retrospectively coded studies according
to the intervention functions they used (Gardner et al., 2016). The review identified Education,
Persuasion, Environmental Restructuring and Training as the most promising intervention functions so
far. When looking at workplace interventions only, both Environmental Restructuring (often in the
form of introducing standing workstations) and Education were deemed promising.
With regard to pro-environmental behaviour change initiatives based on the COM-B model,
studies have focused, for example, on the barriers to and drivers of household water conservation
initiatives (Addo, 2018) and recycling behaviours (Gainforth et al., 2016). In a recent systematic review
of behaviour change interventions for saving energy in office-type workplaces, Environmental
Restructuring (often overlapping with Education and Persuasion), Modelling and Enablement were
identified as intervention functions with the largest potential for success, although some intervention
functions had not been studied in any workplace environmental behaviour studies yet (Staddon et al.,
2016). Overall, the use of the COM-B model within the pro-environmental behaviour change literature
remains scarce. Our work fills this gap in the literature, given the aim of linking health and
environmental behaviour within the workplace and utilising a stealth approach.
2.3.
Research questions and hypothesis development
Based on the aforementioned literature and the focus on employee pro-environmental behaviour,
the following research questions (RQs) were explored:
RQ1: To what extent do employees understand the importance, and what are the perceived
benefits and motivations behind, pro-environmental behaviours in theworkplace?
RQ2: What are the perceived opportunities of and barriers to engaging in pro-environmental
behaviours in the workplace
RQ3: What physical and psychological capabilities are needed to perform pro-environmental
behaviours in the workplace?
These research questions reflect the COM-B framework, and guide the development of our
intervention (see details in the Stage 1 section of the paper).
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 16, Issue 1, 2021
34
In addition, after the development of our intervention, to examine the acceptability of using a
stealth approach in promoting physical activity in the workplace, via advocating employee pro-
environmental behaviours, we formulated the following research question:
RQ4: To what extent did employees perceive the stealth marketing intervention in promoting
physical activity in the workplace, via advocating employee pro-environmental behaviours, to be
acceptable and what were the intervention outcomes?
In order to examine RQ4, a series of hypotheses were formulated. Specifically, physical activity,
based on prior literature, was examined in terms of walking time (Caspersen et al., 1985; Pillay et al.,
2015; NHS Choices, 2017) and standing time (Healy et al., 2008; Dunstan et al., 2012; Smith et al.,
2013). We also, used sedentary time and counting stairs as additional metrics. Given the stealth
intervention aimed at promoting physical activity in the workplace, it was expected that there would be
an increase in walking time, standing time, and stairs used after the intervention, and a decrease in
sedentary time after the intervention. Given the focus on pro-environmental behaviour in the workplace,
we also hypothesised effects related to recycling and energy saving behaviours, as additional
intervention outcomes. In line with the intervention, it was expected that recycling behaviour and
energy saving behaviour would increase after the intervention. Based on the use of a before and after,
control versus intervention groups, research design, we hypothesised that:
H1: a) Recycling behaviour and b) energy saving behaviour amongst employees will increase
after the stealth intervention for the intervention group, but will stay the same for the control group.
H2: a) Walking time, b) standing time, and c) use of stairs will increase after the stealth
intervention for the intervention group, but will stay the same for the control group.
H3: Sedentary time will decrease after the stealth intervention for the intervention group, but will
stay the same for the control group.
Given that perceptions may be inaccurate, this paper also benefits from measures of actual
behaviour for physical activity metrics via observations and a mobile application. Only for pro-
environmental behaviours are self-reported measures used. These hypotheses are examined in Stage 2
of our project via a pilot.
3. METHODOLOGY: AN OVERVIEW
Our feasibility assessment and pilot study took place within a Higher Education Institution and
focused on academics, professional service members and postgraduate research students, as university
employees with office-based jobs. Universities are large organisations with a diverse population of
employees (Manika et al., 2019). This diversity was essential for our feasibility study, in order to
examine the acceptability of a stealth marketing approach to multiple desk-based roles.
Figure 1 identifies the three stages of our feasibility study. Initial employee focus groups fed into
an intervention co-development workshop (Stage 1 addressing RQ1 to RQ3). A pilot was then
conducted (Stage 2 examining H1 to H3), which was followed by a reveal stage and acceptability of the
approach assessment via focus groups (Stage 3). The later two stages address RQ4.
Figure 1. Project stages: overview
Danae Manika, Yvonne Blokland, Lee Smith, Louise Mansfield and Markos
Klonizakis
35
It should be noted that even though the sample sizes are small, this project benefited from an innovative
approach to promoting physical activity in the workplace, while observational data were used, which
required an extensive time commitment to track the physical activity of employees. The results here offer
insights into the acceptability of the stealth approach. Ethics approval was attained for all stages prior to
the beginning of this project (Ethics Approval Reference: QMREC2041a). Each stage of our project is
described below in detail, including the methods and results within each stage.
4. STAGE 1: CO-DESIGN OF INTERVENTION
4.1.
Focus groups: Methods
Two focus groups were held amongst university employees, in order to: 1) understand the
importance, perceived benefits (including potential spillover co-benefits), and motivations behind pro-
environmental behaviours (RQ1); 2) investigate the perceived opportunities and barriers to engaging in
environmental behaviours in the workplace (RQ2); and 3) identify the physical and psychological
capability to perform the required environmental behaviours in the workplace (RQ3).
Focus group participants were recruited via a combined purposive and convenience sampling
technique. An email was sent to all academics, professional services members and postgraduate
research students from three different Schools within the selected university asking them if they would
like to participate in the focus groups. The Schools were chosen for their similarities in department
layout (i.e., floors the offices were located on, location of lifts and stairs). In total, seven people
participated (four and three participants, respectively). The groups comprised 3 academics and 4
professional services members, while all three Schools were represented. Participants were informed
that the project was about “Workplace pro-environmental behaviours and lifestyle habits”, implying a
scope beyond environmental impact without explicitly referring to health. The focus group participants
were asked what comes to mind when they hear the terms “workplace pro-environmental behaviour
and lifestyle habits” to gauge their understanding of the terms prior to the main focus group questions.
The focus groups were led by two moderators. They were transcribed verbatim and audio recorded. All
participants gave written informed consent prior to the focus groups. At the end of the session,
participants received a debriefing letter summarising the purpose of the study and inviting them to
volunteer for the role of Green Champion’ for the pilot intervention study (see section 3.3).
The COM-B model, as part of the Behaviour Change Wheel framework [34], was used for
structuring the focus groups. See Table 1 for example questions. In addition to the COM-B components,
participants were asked about their ideas on motivating employees to engage more in pro-
environmental behaviour. The transcriptions were analysed using thematic coding, which allowed not
only themes of the COM-B framework to emerge but the identification of related sub-themes.
Table 1. Focus group sample questions based on the COM-B framework
COM-B component
Focus Group Same Questions
Capabilities
What particular knowledge or capabilities do you have that help your pro-
environmental behaviours at work?
What particular knowledge or capabilities do you think you lack, impeding your
pro-environmental behaviours at work?
Motivation
What are your motivations to be involved in pro-environmental activities at work?
What are the benefits for you to have pro-environmental behaviours at work?
What are the benefits for your team/department/organisation to have pro-
environmental behaviours at work?
Opportunity
What facilities and procedures provided promote pro-environmental actions at
work?
What barriers do you encounter in your workplace in terms of pro- environmental
behaviours?
4.2.
Focus groups: Results
In regard to the awareness of the terms “workplace pro-environmental behaviours and lifestyle
habits”, participants referred to a wide range of pro-environmental behaviours at work that can be
undertaken at the individual level, such as printing reduction, recycling, switching off lights/machines,
activism, choice of transport mode/commuting (e.g. walking or cycling or the use of an electric car to
work, or travelling long distances by train instead of by plane), energy reduction, waste reduction (e.g.
bringing one’s own lunch, using re-usable coffee mugs and water bottles), and working from home;
while they mentioned lifestyle habits such as working, sleeping, childcare and hobbies, consumption
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 16, Issue 1, 2021
36
patterns, travelling, and exercising/going to the gym/swimming as being associated with the term
lifestyle habits. Hence, the focus groups confirmed the appropriateness of these terms for this focus
group's data collection and future ones.
All focus group participants engaged in one or more of the aforementioned pro-environmental
behaviours at work, but not always to the extent they wished. Aside from the themes of Motivations,
Capabilities and Opportunities for engaging in pro-environmental behaviours at work identified based
on the COM-B model, the absence of certain Capabilities and Opportunities, thus forming barriers to
engaging in such behaviours, were also discussed. For each of these categories (Motivations,
Capabilities and Opportunities), several sub-themes were identified as presented below based on
thematic analysis.
4.2.1.
Capability
Participants noted that knowledge about what items are recyclable or not helps them engage in
recycling or choosing re-usable alternatives. However, specific knowledge and information is lacking.
Similarly, communications from the organisation about energy costs and savings could help employees
understand which behaviours and measures are especially effective and what the benefits would be.
Example quotes are presented in Table 2.
Table 2. Capability sub-themes and sample quotes
Capability sub-themes
Awareness/knowledge about
recycling: disposable cups
Awareness/knowledge about
recycling: recycling bins
Awareness/knowledge on energy
costs for the organisation
4.2.2.
Opportunity
Participants often referred to convenience being an important factor for engaging in pro-
environmental behaviour, e.g., a recycling bin being next to their desk or the campus café selling
reusable coffee cups. A lot of frustration was vented regarding inefficiency at the institutional level and
lack of systems and structures to encourage pro-environmental behaviour. Examples of issues
participants felt should be improved on an institutional level were: building planning, specifically
heating and ventilation; reducing the use of single-use plastic and paper; and having clearer information
available and better procedures around recycling (see also Capability above). Participants suggested the
Danae Manika, Yvonne Blokland, Lee Smith, Louise Mansfield and Markos
Klonizakis
37
university could install solar-powered charging stations for mobile phones for students as well as free
water-fountains around campus, have charging points available for electric cars, and have a bin for
bringing in small electrical items for recycling. Example quotes are presented in Table 3.
Table 3. Opportunity sub-themes and sample quotes
Opportunity sub-themes
Example quote
Convenience
“Recycling regularly as a habit on a day to day basis… the bin’s right by
my desk so it’s not hard. […] It certainly helps because when I was in my
previous office, it was way over the other side of the room and I had to
collect things in a sort of folder box on my desk and take them over once in
a while, I still did it, but certainly for a lot of people, it would be
demotivating when there is another [non-recycling] bin nearby.”
Availability of recycling points
“We do have battery recycling points here […] but small electrical
recycling, it’s still quite difficult for most of us to dispose of a broken plug
[…]. So, the previous place I worked just had small bins in most office
buildings and people were encouraged to bring their small electrical items
to work and work would recycle them, because it’s very difficult for me to
go to a dump with a broken kettle but I can bring it to work and work can
recycle it”
Opportunity for environmentally-
friendly commuting
“We have really poorly managed cycling parking spots as well. There’s no
secure bicycle shed for example”
Building
ventilation/cooling/heating
“The heating is centrally controlled so you can’t adjust the temperature”
Lunches are served with single-use
plastic plates & cutlery or in meal-
deals
“When I go to the minimarket here, the meal deal is quite appealing but it
involves a lot of wastage”
Use of stairs instead of the lift is
not encouraged
“Take as an example, the graduate centre, where people have to use the lifts
because the stairs are really hidden behind several closed doors. That’s a
really bad design and discourages people from using the stairs”
Personal time trade-off
“As always there is this trade-off. If I have to do more, this might also
mean I lose time which I don’t have because of say parental duties”
4.2.3.
Motivation
Participants praised the mental benefits: feeling good about doing something good and feeling
empowered. Specifically, for environmentally friendly commuting, financial and health benefits were
pointed out. When looking specifically at the health and wellbeing (and thus spillover) benefits of pro-
environmental behaviour, participants said they felt more energetic and less stressed if they walked or
cycled to work, and that taking the stairs helped them stay active and aware. Several participants
mentioned that engaging in pro-environmental behaviour at work also sets a precedent to get into pro-
environmental habits outside work. For the organization, apart from financial benefits, people
mentioned that sustainability is simply good public relations and creates a better working environment.
Example quotes are presented in Table 4.
Table 4. Motivation sub-themes and sample quotes
Motivation sub-themes
Example quote
Feeling positive and empowered
“We feel we are doing a bit, even though most of the waste is
business-related and there is nothing we can do about it
directly. So, it’s the feeling that you are doing something
instead of doing nothing”
Getting into the right habits, also outside work
“You can get into the habit of taking a bottle with you to
work, you will take it with you when you go out doing
shopping, or for a walk in the park, you get used to having to
take a bottle with you”
Creating a positive working environment
“I think it helps to have a more positive working environment
and it contributes to that because it shows that the university
cares for the environment and for everybody”
Setting an example
“I think it is the responsibility of academics to set an example
also for their students as well …I am based in a room with
other PhD students, so I think I somehow need to set some
kind of example in this type of behaviour. So yes, I think it’s
beyond an individual responsibility, let’s say, ambassadors to
some extent to this institution, to lead”
Good PR for the organization
“You know when you have students looking round the
Int. Journal of Business Science and Applied Management, Volume 16, Issue 1, 2021
38
campus deciding where to go, younger generations care more
than older generations and if they see that these behaviours
are in place and these systems are there, it looks good, it gives
a good impression of the organisation”
Health-related motivations
“I always used the stairs, and it was part of my daily sort of,
‘this is how I keep myself active […]”
4.2.4.
Focus groups: Additional insights, summary and next steps
For motivating employees to engage more in pro-environmental behaviour, participants were clear
that patronizing messages and stating the obvious (e.g. “you should use the recycling bin”) is
ineffective. They indicated that changes can be made instead by peer pressure and changing the norm:
changing behaviour may encourage colleagues also to change theirs.
“I think signs only have a limited value and I think when people see people that have actually
changed their behaviours, and that this is doable and won’t be disruptive, often they might consciously
think, “oh I can do that, why don’t I do that?”
“Exposing your colleagues to many examples without explicitly stating that, without sounding
preachy or superior basically”
An information campaign could provide factual information about actual benefits, with numbers
and figures, as suggested here:
“I think the university needs to share more both what it spends per year on energy and what it
saves per year on energy […]. It’s finite money, but somehow, we don’t communicate the impact of
those energy reductions in terms of what it allows us, as an institution to do. How many more
academic posts is that? Or how many more opening hours in the library is that? Is it three more
careers consultants?”
The key messages taken from the focus groups (based on RQ1 to RQ3), which informed the
development stage of the intervention campaign, were:
1.
Pro-environmental behaviour needs to be made easy and convenient
2.
People want to have trust in the organisation taking sustainability seriously and for the
organisation to set an example
3.
Patronizing messages about behaviour are off-putting. Instead, communication should focus
on a) factual information, b) a sense of community, and c) feelingpositive/empowered
4.
Peer pressure works: changing the norm will change people’s habits
The next level of the BCW consists of nine behaviour change intervention functions, each
addressing a subset of the sources of behaviour. For example, developing knowledge and
understanding emotions about the behavioural target through ‘Education’ improves reflective
motivation, whereas ‘Environmental Restructuring’ creates both physical and social opportunity. In a
recent systematic review of behaviour change interventions for saving energy in office-type workplaces,
‘Environmental Restructuring’, often overlapping with ‘Education’ and Persuasion’, was amongst the
intervention functions with the largest potential for success (Staddon et al., 2016). These intervention
functions, along with recommendations from the focus groups, were used for the development of our
pilot intervention study.
4.3.
Co-development Workshop of the Intervention: Methods
A co-development workshop was held where academics and practitioners working on
environmental or health behaviour change joined the research team to develop and co-create the
informational campaign employed in this project. The activity was supported by Carbon Credentials
(CC), a consultancy company that works with organisations to help reduce their carbon impact. They
also led the brief design outline and assisted the research team during the co-development workshop to
ensure the goals were fully achieved based on their experience in the industry. The workshop
participants (a total of seven plus the research and the CC teams) were selected due to their expertise.
They were debriefed about the focus of the intervention and the study’s parameters (i.e., aiming to
motivate pro-environmental behaviour in the workplace, which has the potential to spill over to
physical activity and our stealth marketing approach) before being asked to brainstorm ideas for the
intervention in line with the aims of this study.
During the workshop, five different design briefs were created by workshop participants
working in teams. The design briefs allowed the teams to take notes on the main components of their
ideas, which were: Fundamentals: What will we be producing and who will see it?; Objective: What is