Posts Tagged ‘United Kingdom’

It seems like the whole office is off in December. Can anything be done about it?

February 22, 2010

If you work in an office, you probably get an annual allotment of days off every year. Depending on where you work, those vacation days may carry over to the next year. In many places they don’t, though. So what happens in a use-them-or-lose-them office? Everyone takes their unused vacation days at the end of the year, leaving offices so empty that even the few people working are less productive because they can’t complete any task that depends on their vacationing colleague’s input.

December is probably going to be a slow month regardless, but is there a way to improve productivity at the margin with some better choice architecture? Yes, says reader Clare Chamberlain who sends along an interesting solution devised by an unnamed British government department. An employee’s annual leave for the calendar year starts in their birth month. So if you were born in May, your 2010 vacation days would start on May 1, 2010. Right now, you’d still be using 2009 vacation days. Assuming your office isn’t populated by former professional athletes, the result is employee leave that is more evenly distributed throughout the year.

Addendum: The U.K. department is the Crown Prosecution Service.

Nudge grants in action: Social norms and cutting carbon

September 17, 2009

Long time Nudge blog readers may remember the London borough of Barnet, which received money last year for nudge grants. One of those grants went toward a pilot project that taps into social norms to reduce residents’ carbon footprints by asking them to walk more, lower the heat, and take other simple steps that can protect the planet.

A traditional persuasive strategy would be based on stressing how this could benefit the environment. But the council is going further in testing out techniques of influence.

The residents are asked to make pledges in a face-to-face conversation with one of the canvassers who have been going door-to-door in this area.

They are only asked to make some limited pledges – to choose three out of nine options on the pledge card they are shown.

And posters on lampposts proclaim the number of households in that street who have agreed to participate.

The BBC just produced a 38-minute program, Persuading Us to Be Good, about this project and other nudge friendly ideas in the U.K. (Richard Thaler is featured in the program.) As Barnet Council leader Mike Freer says, “We’ve got to stop nagging. If nagging worked we’d all be skinny, we’d all be recycling and we’d all be walking to work.” Listen to it here.

An american book in parliament square

December 19, 2008

Stephen Dubner of Freakonomics was in London’s Parliamentary Bookshop recently and saw a single American book on the display shelf.


Conflicting opinions on presumed consent for organ donation in the U.K.

October 10, 2008

The public says yes. The British Medical Association and the Royal College of Nursing say yes. British doctors say maybe. Those are the results of a recent poll in the U.K. on organ donation.

Two thirds of the public now supports the idea. Intensive care doctors are split, with half saying a move could damage the trust between patients, their families and doctors. (The sample size for the doctors was only 125.) The concerns are similar to the ones David Orentlicher raised in his working paper.

Some doctors are concerned presumed consent might instill doubts in patients and relatives about a potential conflict of interest.

Mr Gunning said: “In intensive care patients are often admitted suddenly and the families have to comes to terms very quickly with the fact that someone may not survive. It is very important in this situation that we have their trust, that we are doing is going to be in the best interests of that patient.”

While he strongly supports the principle of organ donation, he believes any consideration of presumed consent is premature.

“The trouble is we live in a society where people are very much worried about the interference of the state. I think you would find that families would view this as taking the organs – and that would create a tension.”

Hat tip: Jeffrey Sybesma

Can grocery delivery be greener than walking to a store yourself?

August 27, 2008

Food conservation is a national issue in the U.K., with its own awareness week and a prime minister who wants to end buy-one-get-one-free marketing. Ocado, the grocery delivery company that gave customers the option of scheduling a delivery when a van is already planning to be in the neighborhood, has another nudge for eliminating some of the waste that analysts say would feed 19 million people.

According to a press release, Ocado’s research into the reasons behind food waste indicates that “forgetting to check when a product needs to be used by” is the third most common reason for wasting food (“cooking too much” is the top reason). Along with every delivery, the company is now printing up a new receipt that lists all fresh foods – from single ingredients to prepared meals – by best before dates.

Ocado says having your groceries delivered by its vans produces a lower carbon footprint than if you walked to the store and bought them yourself. How is that possible? In part, by building warehouses that are much greener than traditional stores and sending groceries out in bio diesel trucks.

The first nudge grant

August 22, 2008

The London borough of Barnet has become the first local council in the U.K. – and anywhere as far as we know – to receive money specifically to put the ideas of nudge into public policy. The £100,000 from the Department for Communities and Local Government will be designated for waste reducing ideas, says the Guardian.

Ed Gillespie, of communications firm Futerra which is designing the pilots, said: “One way of boosting recycling might be to offer top recyclers smaller bins to demonstrate they have reduced their waste. It gives people an aspiration to throw less away.” It also suggested handing out free energy meters to show people their exact usage. He said: “It can make people slightly obsessive about turning things off.”

Genuinely exciting! We hope more nudge grants will follow.

Carbon footprint labels are spreading

August 21, 2008

First, Tesco introduced carbon footprint labels on 70,000 of its products including orange juice, potatoes, energy-efficient light bulbs, and detergent. The plan was developed in conjunction with the British Carbon Trust (a private company set up by the British government). Then the French retailer Casino followed. Now Japan has announced plans to launch carbon labels next year. Unlike in Europe, the Japanese Trade Ministry is overseeing the project, which will include some of Japan’s largest retailers including Aeon Corporation of Japan, Seven & I Holdings, and Sapporo Breweries.

Sapporo has already affixed labels to some of its products, like the one below. Since grams of carbon don’t mean much to consumers, we think a simpler labeling scheme that tells how this product compares with other similar products (like energy star labels) would be a better approach.

Participatory government (U.K. style)

August 8, 2008

The U.K.’s Minister for the Cabinet Office just launched a competition promising cash from a £20,000 prize fund for the best ideas for new products that could improve the way public information is communicated. Researchers will be pleased by newly available data. The plan is called Show Us a Better Way.

More momentum for the Conservative “nudge agenda” in the U.K.

July 10, 2008

From yesterday’s Guardian.

Households will be rewarded by a Conservative government for recycling waste with vouchers worth up to £360 a year, the shadow chancellor, George Osborne, will say tonight. In a speech to the Green Alliance sustainable development body, Osborne will outline plans to bring to the UK an American recycling scheme that would reward people for recycling.

Osborne thought the vouchers would be redeemable in local restaurants. The Guardian attributes this proposal to Nudge.

Osborne will locate Recycle Bank firmly within the Conservative’s “nudge” agenda, based on the social theories of American sociologists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein that have influenced US presidential candidate Barack Obama.

Not sure when Thaler and Sunstein became sociologists. They’re happy for the pub, but really, there’s probably a few people who would say this idea comes straight out of plain old Nudge-free economics.