Stress in the workplace and the B=MAP model

Howto promote healthy employee behaviours using the B=MAP model

Table of contents

Employee stress contributes to the largest segment of lost days due to sickness annually. In 2019/20, 17.9 million sick days were taken due to stress, depression or anxiety.  Stress has a huge impact on productivity, staff morale and wellbeing, and employee turnover. Organisations are keen to find ways to reduce this stress to keep a happy workforce. But knowing where to start can sometimes feel like a monumental task.

To tackle this issue, we first need to understand the behaviours that are causing stress, and change them. This is probably easier than you expect, and we’ll show you how . 

Stanford University Professor BJ Fogg developed the B=MAP model to address a common problem in designing for behaviour change. In a nutshell, many behaviour change attempts had failed because people just didn’t understand the drivers of behaviour. Without any jargon Fogg’s simple formula tells us the fundamentals of behaviour .

top view of woman with head in hands over desk feeling stressed

What is the B=MAP model?

The B=MAP model tells us that for a behaviour to happen, three things need to be present at the same time. These are motivation (M), ability (A), and a prompt (P). Let’s use the example of exercising as the behaviour to explain the model.

Motivation is arguably the most important ingredient of effective behaviour change. If we’re not motivated to do something, we won’t do it. Motivation comes in many shapes and sizes and can differ depending on the audience. Motivation for exercising might be to improve strength after an injury, to prepare for a charity run, or to lost weight, for example.

We also need to have the ability to carry out the behaviour. Motivation alone  isn’t enough. If we don’t have the right resources when we need them, we just won’t be able to do it. When it comes to exercising, ability might mean having the time, the right environment, or the physical capability to do it.

The prompt is often the key to unlocking the behaviour. It reminds us that we need to do it and sparks us into action. Setting a daily alarm on your phone to exercise could be the trigger to go jogging. You could also pair your target behaviour with another activity that is already a habit. For example, I will exercise 30 minutes after my breakfast.

Once we’ve understood how these three elements interact  to facilitate behaviour, then we can start to figure out what might be preventing people from carrying out particular behaviours.

How can B=MAP encourage stress-free behaviours?

Now that we understand the elements that make up a behaviour, it’s important to think about how to map these to our behavioural issue.

One of the most common causes of workplace stress is overworked staff, due to an inability to cope with the demands of their role. This can be exacerbated by multiple daily interruptions that take employees away from their tasks to resolve other issues.

To apply the B=MAP model, we need to identify the motivation, ability and prompts in this scenario.

Is there motivation? The motivation for many here is likely to be getting paid, achieving deadlines, and job satisfaction.

Do they have the ability? Employees have the ability to do the tasks assigned to them, but due to disruptions all day, time to complete their work is limited. 

Is there a prompt? Daily progress meetings, reminders of deadlines, or a simple checklist showing closeness to task completion all serve  to the behaviour. 

In this example, employees stress is caused by the interruptions in their daily work schedule that take them away from their tasks. This impacts on their  ability to do the behaviour as it impacts their resources.

To address this problem, employees’ ability to do their tasks needs to be improved. One way to address this could be by allocating ‘quiet times’ where employees can’t be interrupted, and introducing an email query system that can be accessed at allocated times.  This would allow employees to get their work finished on time. This results in much lower stress and better workplace morale.

Can B=MAP be used for other behavioural issues?

B=MAP is a diverse tool that can be applied to a range of workplace behaviours.

You can use the model to introduce new behaviours, and to improve engagement in others. Simply use the formula to identify the motivation, ability and prompt for your target behaviour. Speak to us if you’d like to find out some more about how we use behavioural science in our design process. 

B=MAP is not limited to facilitating new behaviours. It can also be used to help understand and stop unwanted behaviours in the workplace.

group of happy colleagues around a computer together at desk

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