The Redesigning Wellness Podcast

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067: Cracking the Code of Healthy Habits with Andrew Sykes, CEO of Habits at Work

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Why is health the set of habits that humans battle with more than any other?

In this episode of Redesigning Wellness, Jen speaks with Andrew Sykes, Professional Speaker, Habit Actuary, and CEO of Habits at Work to tackle this very question. Andrew introduces us to what his organization considers to be the four main contexts of wellness, as well as how he is currently impacting these contexts in the workplace today. Together, Jen and Andrew dive into the three most impactful sets of habits for human beings: habits of health, happiness, and financial security.

From rigorous research in the BRATLAB to real-life theory application in the workplace, Andrew and his team feel they have cracked the code. Listen to catch of glimpse of his a wealth of knowledge on habit creation, well-being in the workplace, and insight to how we can provide an environment that allows employees the opportunity to leave healthier than when they arrived.

3 Key Points:

  • We are creatures of our surroundings more than anything else
  • The key habit to focus on is the one that you’re actually going to get done
  • Lasting habit change relies on intrinsic sources of motivation, not incentives

Show Notes:

Jen Arnold: [00:00:01] Andrew, welcome to the Redesigning Wellness podcast. So glad to have you.

Andrew Sykes: [00:00:05] Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be on your show.

Jen Arnold: [00:00:18] Well, I just wanted to say publicly that I didn’t get to go to WELCOA but I heard a lot of great things about your presentation. So you came highly recommended as a guest so thank you. Now tell us a little bit about your company and how it was formed.

Andrew Sykes: [00:00:34] Well my company is called Habits of Work. It was originally Health at Work and it was formed out of my naïve arrival in America. I started my career in South Africa and had built one of the largest health insurance and actuarial consulting firms. And after some time they came to the conclusion we were not making a difference to members’ health as much as we were improving their insurance.

I remember having this discussion with my board and no one seemed to think it was a problem. So a few months later I left and came to America with this naive belief that this was the land where I could learn about how wellness should be done well. And I was in for a rude awakening because although there are pockets of excellence I think the big story in America is that wellness is often and largely failed.

So we set up health at work as a business committed to figuring out why it’s failing and when it’s failing, and so what can we do instead to make sure it succeeds. It was also the genesis of our research lab, BRATLAB, which studies this exact question: which habits really make a difference to human performance and how do you design the world of work to make it easy for people to practice those habits?

Jen Arnold: [00:01:51] I think every good company is born out of being naive, right. I think that’s a beautiful thing. What got you interested in health in the first place?

Andrew Sykes: [00:02:02] I would say it was almost accidental. I just had studied to become an actuary. I often say I’m a recovering actuary because I have a team of very capable people who now do the math and the actual science of our business.

But at that time in South Africa, Apartheid was being dismantled. And with it, many of the laws around different industries including health insurance. And so I got into reinsurance as my first career, and reinsurer is often called on to help insurers or health plans invent and take the risk for new plan designs.

So I was very lucky to be at the time and the place where consumer directed health plans were being born in South Africa. A decade or so before they even reached the US as an idea, let alone now a very common plan design. So that’s what got me into the insurance side of health. But I spent a decade before I came to what I described as the dark side or the light side of wellness.

Jen Arnold: [00:03:03] So how did that happen? I get going from an actuary and then getting into insurance. Obviously, I guess it was an interest for you from a personal perspective or…?

Andrew Sykes: [00:03:14] Yes. And I come from a large family. I’m the youngest of eight kids and five of my siblings are in health care in one form or another. I guess it was always in the background when I was growing up, but I find health to be so fascinating because it is perhaps the set of habits that humans battle with more than any other. So I think if you can help people crack the code of how to practice healthy habits the rest of life seems a little easier.

Jen Arnold: [00:03:45] Have you cracked that code?

Andrew Sykes: [00:03:47] We think so. We’ve been at it for a decade and some years now. We spent a lot of time researching the reasons why people find it hard to practice healthy habits. What gets in the way, whether they’re excuses or real barriers.

We spend a lot of time looking at the things that distract to taint people away from the best laid plans. And we’ve really gotten to the bottom of what motivation is or what it needs to be to be enough. Something more than mere desire. And so we have a collection of influence methods that are ways to design the work so that it’s easy for people to practice these habits. And when companies use and deploy these influence methods they’re getting great results. So, I would say yes I think we have cracked the code.

Jen Arnold: [00:04:38] That’s wonderful we definitely need that help. Does this fit in, I’m going to ask you all about that in a minute, but how does it fit in with context design?

Andrew Sykes: [00:04:48] When people ask us, “what do you do?”, we say we’re in the business of context design. And they say well what the hell does that mean.

Jen Arnold: [00:04:56] Yep, just like I did!

Andrew Sykes: [00:04:56] Yes, yours I’ll answer! About a decade ago, we realized working with a client that we at that time, and I think many people in wellness, focused on people as if they’re somehow the problem. You’re not motivated enough or you’re lazy or not educated or something’s wrong with a human being that they need to be fixed, and that’s why we have wellness programs.

And we realize that that not only aggravates or disempowers people but it misses the key point which is that we are creatures of what surrounds us more than anything else. And that’s what we call context, the things that surround us. I often give the analogy of that fish swimming in water whose life is completely affected by the temperature of the water and how much there is and how it lives and breathes and mates and dies is completely affected by the water. It doesn’t notice the water. And I think as human beings we’re surrounded by things that highly influence our behavior. We don’t notice the influence most of the time. And therefore if you are able to be aware of the instruments and design it in a particular way, it’s enormously powerful.

We say there are four contexts that surround human beings. Physical spaces-just kind of obvious the walls and roofs, ceilings. You know chairs and tables that we interact with, sit on, and move around in an office space. But it includes things like sent in the air or temperature. All the things that you can sense with your body.

We say there is a context of systems, which is the abstract rules, laws and regulations that define our lives. The answer to the question how do we do things here is usually captured by a system. And then there is the people that surround us. And even though we think peer pressure disappears when we become young adults, we think is exactly the opposite.

The older you get the more you’re influenced by fewer people that you like and trust. And so those are three fairly easy contexts we think there’s a fourth and we describe it as the context of the self, which you might say is like your mind set. And we  like to think of it as something separate from you in the sense that your beliefs, your views, your biases, your experiences, even though they are so deeply personal are designable. You can tell someone a new story and they suddenly have a new view on how the world works. And through their new view, an invitation to join an exercise program now may occur as exciting and fun whereas yesterday with their disempowered story it would sound like the worst thing on the planet.

So those are the four contexts: spaces, systems, social, and the self. And that’s what we help companies do is design those context around employees.

Jen Arnold: [00:08:02] Are systems the culture? Is that another word for it or is not the same exactly?

Andrew Sykes: [00:08:06] It’s not the same. It’s just our view on this. Many people have different definitions of culture. We’ve noticed that when you walk into a company, in ten minutes you have a sense of the culture. You look around to see what people are doing and what you’re saying. And so we think culture is nothing more or less mysterious than some of the habits that people practice. So for us systems aren’t the culture, but systems like all the other contexts, have an influence over what their culture is. So you might say we’re in the business of context design in order to deliberately create the culture that you want or the set of habits.

Jen Arnold: [00:08:50] I thank you for the clarification. So, when you work with companies you have to I’m assuming work and within each context, right? You’re not going to just do one or the other. Or do you have to do all four at once?

Andrew Sykes: [00:09:03] You don’t have to do all four at once. It’s the same as our view on habits that trying to change one habit is difficult enough. Trying to change two make it impossible. So we tend to encourage companies to go to work on one context at a time. And you know there may be a time when they’re moving offices when redesigning the physical space makes sense. It may be a time of the year when they have just completed a culture ordnance. And so it may make sense to go to work on the behavior of people and how that shows up in their culture. So there are different times when each of the context may be more or less important or more or less timely to work on.

Jen Arnold: [00:09:44] And I’m assuming that it doesn’t really matter or…I’m going to ask this: Is there one that would make a bigger impact than another or do they all matter somewhat equally? Or does it depend on the worksite you are getting involved in?

Andrew Sykes: [00:09:57] I love the question because it always reflects for me that someone really deeply understands what contexts are. And here’s how I would answer it. Depending on the habit, Some contexts are more or less powerful than others. So when it comes to healthy eating, we think physical spaces are the dominant context. Particularly because food travels about 1400 miles to get to us in the U.S. and we travel about 10 or 20 feet to get to it.

And I know you’re familiar with that research of how you can change people’s food preferences just by lowering or raising how food is presented to people or putting mirrors behind food to slow them down. All of those things say to us that how food is presented, which is part of the physical spaces or spaces context, has a big impact on what people will find and choose to eat. But when it comes to something like exercise, I would argue that whether or not you have an exercise partner makes a big difference. And that’s part of the social context.

And in some cases the rules that apply at work might be dominance of the systems context. For example, we find it difficult to meditate I think as human beings. Some people do at least. Some people have a story that it’s not appropriate to do at work. So one of the ways we’ve sold it in our company is on the meeting agenda, item number two is to spend just a couple of minutes being mindful and present before we get onto the rest of the agenda.

So we’ve built it into the system of how we run meetings and this place. So whenever we begin looking at a habit we first ask which habit are we interested in, and then which context is likely to be the the one that dominates and is most influential?

Jen Arnold: [00:11:57] Gotcha. Okay. Now how does the context fit in with the habits? Like they’re all related, but you have a different top nine habit practices with you have three domains. So tell me how it all works together.

Andrew Sykes: [00:12:12] There is a taxonomy to all of this, which I think can be confusing but we are deliberate with our choice of words so that we could be very clear. And I’ll do that with you if I can.

We work in three domains of habits. Habits of health, the habits of happiness, and the habits of financial security. And the reason we don’t mush them all together into one big definition of well-being is we think human beings think about money and finances differently from eating and exercise and differently from meaning, purpose, happiness, and relationships. So since human beings segregate them, we too separate them into those three domains. Even though they’re interrelated, and even though a full and joyful life requires all three, we think it makes sense to do the research and to design interventions in those three domains.

Then in each domain, we spent the last decade asking what does the research say are the top habits that lead to people being either healthy, happy, or financially secure. And those are the top nine that we’ve come up within each of those three domains. None of which would surprise you because they’re all familiar to anyone working in our field.

What might surprise you is the prescription for some of those habits that we recommend. For example, we’re recommended to do 150 minutes of exercise a week when it comes to the habit of movement and physical activity. We think a better prescription is not 150 minutes a week, but more like two to four minutes roughly every hour or two hours throughout the day.

Why? It’s easier to build into the workday. It gets you most of the intra-day benefits of improved concentration and decision making. And while you won’t run a marathon on that amount of exercise, it gets you almost all of the health benefits that you get from 45 minutes in the gym each day. And the truth is most people find it hard to set aside an hour to exercise. But everyone I know takes a break roughly every hour. In fact, if you don’t you’re likely to be less productive than those who do.

Jen Arnold: [00:14:33] Okay so let me just clarify here. That makes complete sense and I love it. You know, standing desks are all the rage, but I’m assuming it’s more of movement. It’s not standing and obviously not sitting, but it’s more of movement throughout your day, right? Not just standing?

Andrew Sykes: [00:14:47] It’s just raising your heart rate up a little bit. So I’m sure that standing is better than sitting. Our jury is out frankly on just how bad the sitting disease is versus standing all day motionless. I think our view is movement first, physical activity second, and exercise third. It sounds similar but movement is just what you do to get around in life. Physical activity is doing something strenuous but you may not characterize it as exercise. And then exercise is jumping jacks and running on a treadmill.

Jen Arnold: [00:15:23] That’s what people hate, right?. Unless you’re in our profession. Then we all love it. But everyone else hates it.

Andrew Sykes: [00:15:30] And I think that the trick for a lot of this is to take things that people hate. And notice that we put a lot of things in our jobs that we hate and we do them every single day just because they are part of work and that’s the deal.

So we really committed to figuring out how to make health, happiness, and financial security habits part of your job. So they get done with the same attention and vigor that we attend to our customers. Knowing that if we’re healthy, happy, and secure, we have this energy and mental clarity to do our best work for our businesses.

Jen Arnold: [00:16:09] So what are some habits that support financial security?

Andrew Sykes: [00:16:13] Well, as you’d expect spending less than you earn.

Jen Arnold: [00:16:16] That helps!

Andrew Sykes: [00:16:16] Sticking to a budget. Putting aside short-term savings, saving for retirement in a 401k or something else. Insuring the assets that you have and the risks that life presents to your health, your disability, or indeed your life itself. So nothing that you wouldn’t get from a even mediocre financial planner.

I think just like exercise, people find it hard to make ends meet. Even if today they’re earning a salary that’s five times what they were when they were 20 and surviving. Somehow every year we earn more and it just gets more and more difficult to make ends meet. And I think it is a behavioral problem, financial security. Not an income problem.

Andrew Sykes: [00:17:05] Yeah, there used to be somebody on my team who every time she got a raise. Sock it away. She just every time..any bonus she got, she gets you know socked it away. Eventually, she bought herself a nice Lexus SUV, but she always saved everything and always lived on what she was previously making at the very beginning so commended her for that.

Andrew Sykes: [00:17:26] I commend her, too. I only wish I had done the same. Look for a company with the view that you know, it’s really hard for people to do this, so we’ll make it easy for you next time we give you an increase. You’re expecting 3 percent will give you one and put two into your 401k. Make it difficult for you not to save rather than making it difficult for you to save.

Jen Arnold: [00:17:50] Yeah my prior company did that and it was lovely. You could, you know, go to the lengths to say please don’t put my extra money in my 401k. But if you just left it alone they would do that for you, which was great. It really helped.

So when you think about the habits and obviously how to make a difference to performance, are there any that supersede the others that really make an impact on performance or they are kind of equal?

Andrew Sykes: [00:18:15] Research aims to quantify the dose value of a habit, which is a term we borrowed from the pharmaceutical industry. If you’ve got a headache, you want to know whether aspirin or Tylenol is going to fix your headache fastest with fewer side effects at the lowest cost. And we think that you can apply the same thinking to habits.

So if you’re trying to improve your decision making or lower absenteeism, it’s a relevant question whether exercise is more or less powerful than meditation or an extra 15 minutes of sleep. And there is enough research to support an answer to that question. So the answer we generally come up with is twofold. The research answer which says in the domain of health, exercise is the single strongest habit and it also has the impact on the most outcomes that we care about.

Having said that, a second answer is always a key habit to focus on is the one you’re actually going to get done. And for many people they say, “well you know I hear your research which is exercise is the most important habit. But right now, I’m not sleeping.” And if you don’t change your sleep first, it’s unlikely that you’ll get around to exercise.

Jen Arnold: [00:19:37] That makes complete sense. Now, with the BRATLAB, how are you studying people? Are you studying clients? Are there surveys or observations? How does it all work?

Andrew Sykes: [00:19:49] The first thing we do is a lot of secondary research. So in the area of which habit’s matter, we have synthesized and reviewed now several thousand peer-reviewed journal published research papers looking at usually one habit, like healthy eating, and one outcome, like absenteeism, at a time. And that research database continues to grow.

Every quarter we do an update and it’s what you might describe it as more clinical than any other type of research in there. But in the other part of BRATLAB, which is looking at how to create these habits. The research has a very different form. And for that we went to both academia and to business and we started with businesses by asking outside of wellness, which other industries are they? And in each of those industries, what have they figured out about changing human behavior?

So for example how do churches get people to come every Sunday? How do casinos get people to come and lose the money, have a good time, leave poor with a smile on their face? And we looked at car salesman meaning consumer goods you name it. Any industry you could think of, we asked what do they do well. How do they do it?

And then we went to the academic research to understand is there a behavioral or a motivational or a theory that can explain why they’re successful? And we married those two things in what we call our full powers model, which is our answer to the question, what does research say is the best way to create new habits in a human being?

Jen Arnold: [00:21:37] That’s rather intense. You guys are all actuaries. Like I could say you’re probably nerding out on all the research right.

Andrew Sykes: [00:21:47] You did ask a question about field research. After all that’s what we spent the last decade doing is actually testing with the research we found works in practice. So there is a layer of real life experience to see with what we think should work turns out to work in practice.

Jen Arnold: [00:22:05] And how many of those did not work? Anything surprise you? What you thought would work? What didn’t work?

Andrew Sykes: [00:22:10] Yeah lots of things have surprised us. You know anyone who has heard me speak before knows I am very against health risk assessments and biometric screenings and wellness incentives, all of which I have sold and promoted earlier in my career.

So those are things that I thought at one stage were common sense obvious ways to change people’s habits. There’s some research that says that knowledge precedes action. So knowing your numbers campaigns seem to make sense. But in the field, all we’ve ever seen is that they increase health care costs. And but for maybe 1 in 1000 people, they do more harm than good. So those are some examples of things we’ve tried and have failed to succeed by using.

Jen Arnold: [00:23:00] Amen to that. Let’s talk a little bit more about incentives because you mentioned the knowledge versus actually action. And that makes complete sense, although people are still doing health assessments thinking that they just need to see the magic number that’s going to spur them into action. What about incentives? Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Andrew Sykes: [00:23:17] Yeah. You know, when it comes to incentives I think the problem people are trying to solve is a lack of motivation. And we are very quick to assume about ourselves and others that the reason we’re not exercising is because we’re not motivated enough.

So the reason I think incentives don’t work first of all is because isn’t not always a motivation problem. It might be that is a barrier- physical or imagined. It might be that is something that’s tempting you away or distracting you from acting. Or it may be that you lack confidence and competence. And if you highly motivate someone with an incentive, but they lack belief in themselves they would be irrational to take your incentive because they just don’t believe they could do it. So the reason they fail firstly is because it’s not always a motivation problem.

I think a second complaint about incentives is although you can bribe people, certainly some people some of the time to do some things, people get accustomed to financial incentives. The price goes up and you have to pay more and more to get the same behavior. Which is why we pay people more salary over time.

I think financial incentives in particular and even incentives in the form of prizes and swag or whatever you call it, gift cards, suffer the problem that they are an extrinsic source of motivation. And we think the lasting habit change relies on intrinsic sources of motivation. Wanting to do it for something I get out of it like feeling good or feeling like I’m contributing to the success of my company.

So I don’t say never use incentives, I just say proceed with caution. And at best financial incentives might get someone interested and in the room, but they’re unlikely to have someone exercising 300 days out of the year.

Jen Arnold: [00:25:20] Right. I was writing down what you just said because I think it was so good. You’re trying to solve a problem that is not always a motivation problem. You’re trying to solve that motivation equation. You said it more eloquently than I did, but I love that. So true and I think the hope is always you’re going to get people in the room right. That you are going to introduce them to something and they are just going to be sold on it. Not so much in the real world.

Andrew Sykes: [00:25:45] But this issue of getting people in the room reminds me always of Disney. And we would go to Disney Land and pay a fortune to be there for the opportunity to be entertained and to have some fun. So it always makes me smile when someone says we have a wonderfully fun wellness program. And we have to pay you to participate.

Jen Arnold: [00:26:07] They don’t go together do they.

Andrew Sykes: [00:26:10] If it was really fun, people would be lining up to watch us about. I’m not saying that it’s easy to make things fun. In fact, I think it’s very difficult to design fun into anything, but to pretend that it’s fun because there’s incentives misunderstands what fun really is.

Jen Arnold: [00:26:27] Right. When you think about Disney and people going and paying a bucket load of money for the standing in long lines, it’s hot in Orlando. It’s just all of these barriers, but yet they still go in droves. Now one of the other things we talked about with me before the podcast, before we were live here, senior leadership. Tell me your stance on do they really need to be involved to make initiatives successful?

Andrew Sykes: [00:26:53] I think they do need to be involved. But I have a slightly different view of the nature of their involvement. I think their participation in the programs is all well and good. Leading by example is fantastic to have.

But I think the critical involvement that I’ve seen work from senior leaders is when they take responsibility for the design of the context of the business. In other words, a CEO saying we’ve got a great new wellness program and I’m part of this and you can see me and I’m very active and I’m wearing my pedometer is great. But if in the afternoon all-hands meeting with all employees, the message is we need more money and we need more clients we need more bottom line activity.

Whatever that message is that’s conveyed in other settings or even through the way that we offer pupil performance incentives. I think it can undermine their well-meaning leadership example. So I would rather that they not participate in the program if instead they fundamentally redesign the business to be a place of health in the first place.

Jen Arnold: [00:28:04] And if I do both I’m guessing that’s a bonus.

Andrew Sykes: [00:28:06] Absolutely. You know, I think the enlightened leader will have come to the conclusion that work is actually the problem. If we say that we are at or on work for more than half of our awake adult lifetimes, and if our health is generated by the habits we practice each day while most of our habits are taking place and or related to work.

So it always amazes me that we should spend money on Weight Watchers and on health insurance after we spend money feeding people junk food and sugary drinks at work. It just makes no sense. So I always believed it’s cheaper than the current status quo to simply make your place of work a shrine to good health in the first place.

Jen Arnold: [00:29:07] So what are some ways that you do that within your own company? You already mentioned that the meditation that you put on the agendas, but what else do you do?

Andrew Sykes: [00:29:15] Well, the only food that we offer people in our company is water, a protein drink, canned fish because it’s brain food, and occasionally alcohol because we can’t be only boring.

Jen Arnold: [00:29:31] You were about to lose me at the canned fish, so I’m glad you spiced it up some!

Andrew Sykes: [00:29:34] And of course we have coffee and tea, but we don’t have sugary drinks. We don’t have a vending machine and we insist that whenever we eat as a company, it’s healthy food. There’s just no opportunity for people to bring junk food into our company.

The second thing we’ve done is we’ve designed our space to be what we call a performance office. So rather than it being a set of cubicles where you do multiple tasks at the same desk, we have about 10 different spaces and employees in our company move from one space to the next depending on what it is that they’re doing. So if they’re meeting to imagine new ideas and products, they meet in front of our plant wall.

There is a Skylight so they get some natural blue light in. And both of those things are being shown to promote blue sky and imaginative thinking. When they are proofreading that come into a little cubicle like this or there are no distractions and we are focused on the task at hand. Our office space turned out to be cheaper than most of our clients because we didn’t spend $5000 on a boardroom table and leather chairs.

One of our boardrooms just has mats in it. So we stand and we have meetings. We’ve painted the walls so that we can draw on them or use markers on them. And we found now that we have standing meetings, they take half as long. We’re much more productive. People aren’t hiding behind their cell phones or their computers while they meet. And so it’s not just cheaper. It’s not just that people are standing or moving while we meet. It’s turned out to be a much more efficient way of running our business as well.

Jen Arnold: [00:31:13] Are your meetings rather short because everyone is standing?

Andrew Sykes: [00:31:17] People want to go back to doing what they’re doing. It’s very easy to sort of sit in a meeting and zone out and wake up at the end of the meeting and wonder what happened. Pretty impossible for that to happen in our meetings.

Jen Arnold: [00:31:29] You’ll make sure of it! Are you going to do any plank challenges maybe, a plank meeting?

Andrew Sykes: [00:31:34] We do. Roughly every hour, somebody yells out or one of the timers go off on some of the apps we use and we gather as a group and do two to four minutes of exercise as a ritual.

Jen Arnold: [00:31:46] That’s really nice. A little scary. Little like picking a drill sergeant, everyone get up!

Andrew Sykes: [00:31:53] When you talk about culture. In most companies, the culture would be that if someone stood up and said let’s all exercise, they would be the lone nut that everyone says needs some help or should go work elsewhere. We try to create a culture where if you the person that sets out, you probably know more comfortable. I think mostly we behave in ways that we find comfortable. And if the status quo in your company is everyone to exercise and eat healthily, that’s what’s comfortable.

Jen Arnold: [00:32:30] I’m just messing with you, Andrew. It sounds like a lovely place. Aside from the canned fish and the water.

Andrew Sykes: [00:32:34] Your have you can have the alcohol.

Jen Arnold: [00:32:38] Alcohol and coffee! That’s what I need. Now when you think about resources so that you know my audience- wellness professionals, health professionals, what’s a resource maybe? A book, a TED talk, something that you would recommend or something that’s made an impact on your life?

Andrew Sykes: [00:32:58] There are many books. Too many to list them all, but some of my favorites are the books written by JLD on influence and pre-suasion, his latest book. I’ve long been a fan of the vital habits book Influencer. You know, we have a library in our office as you might expect and a reading list in good reason I would say there is maybe a hundred fantastic books on instrument science.

Daniel Conman’s work and many others. The Nudge book… so I think there are a lot of books if you just take some time to google or research behavioral science and applied behavioral psychology, there are many. There are some great websites too like The Mind Lines author, bought a collection of all the different influence methods that he’s found over the years. He wrote the book Mind Lines.

And then I found it to be a useful resource to read in domains other than wellness, but where behavior matters. So books like Why We Buy by Paca Underhill. And they go about how the design of malls and grocery stores influences our behaviors. It’s been a really useful book for us in thinking about how to redesign cafeterias or cafes in offices.

Jen Arnold: [00:34:26] That’s a whole host. I’ll make sure I link some of these up in the show notes and I’m going to check out Mind Lines. That sounds like a good one. Some of the other ones I’ve read, and they are great books. Though if you had to boil it down- all of your knowledge, all that research, all that field research- into one tangible tip for wellness professionals to really impact their organization. What would it be?

Andrew Sykes: [00:34:47] Look past the people you’re trying to help. And look at what surrounds them instead.

Jen Arnold: [00:34:56] Say that again?

Andrew Sykes: [00:34:56] Look past the people you’re trying to help. And look at what surrounds them instead.

Jen Arnold: [00:35:05] Wise advice. And they can go back and get some of the tips from the podcast to read into that a little bit so that it is very succinct. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you want to talk about?

Andrew Sykes: [00:35:21] I’m interested in the future of wellness. And whether or not it will continue as an industry, or will disappear into the mainstream of how we simply run businesses here. So I think that’s a dream I’d like to share which is I hope that one day all of us as wellness professionals are out of business.

And what I mean by that is, wouldn’t it be great if leaders in companies designed from the ground up businesses to be a place where everyday people arrived, they did they work, and whether they live that day or a week later or thirty years later, they go home in better shape than when they arrived, financially more secure than when they arrived, and having had a purposeful and joyful experience because of work.

For me, my dream is that the word work loses its association with pain, effort, and a lack of fun. And that my kids grow up to think of work as this amazing opportunity to get everything that they want for themselves in their life.

Jen Arnold: [00:36:44] I imagine with a father like you, then that will happen. I think some of it is influenced by the parents, too. If you enjoy going to work every day then I think that’s a huge influence on children. At least I hope so. So how can people contact you if they wanted to get in touch or visit your website?

Andrew Sykes: [00:37:01] Our company website is habits at work, spelled out in full H-A-B-I-T–S-A-T-W-O-R-K. I do a lot of professional speaking and my speaking site is And if you want to know a little bit more about our research lab, it’s BRATLAB. I didn’t share with you earlier, but the reason we call it BRATLAB is because we realized, more from my own example than anyone else’s frankly, that human beings know what to do generally, but find it difficult to do what they know. And I would describe that as adult brattish behavior.

Jen Arnold: [00:37:44] That’s really how it was created, huh.

Jen Arnold: [00:37:46] Well, it does stand for something more long-winded. It’s the behavioral research applied technology laboratory, but we manufacture that acronym so that it describes the essence of our being which is you don’t do what we know to do.

Jen Arnold: [00:38:00] You just found the words first, right. You found the meaning and then you’re like I’ll figure something out later. Andrew, thank you so much for your time. This has been a pleasure.

Andrew Sykes: [00:38:09] My absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Links Mentioned/Recommended Reading:

Other references:

Wellness Professionals

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