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Health Facilities Institute University (HFI-U) is providing tips to assist operations personnel to develop good facility health habits by raising awareness of these behaviors and people’s ability to change them.

Per the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, 40 percent of a person’s daily choices are habits.

“Habits are like the water in which fish swim,” says Allen Rathey, principal of HFI-U. “And there is truth to the saying, ‘fish discover water last.’ Much of life consists of habit — we are ‘swimming’ in it, and we are wise to examine this ‘current’ to ensure it will move us toward our goals.”

MIT researchers found each habit consists of three parts:

1. A Cue: A trigger that prompts an action, switching our brains to “automatic mode”

2. A Routine: An action, process, or behavior prompted by a cue

3. A Reward: A desire or motivation integrated in the cue and the action it prompts

Research shared by author Charles Duhigg in his book, “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,” reveals a person can change a habit if they replace the routine with a different one and keep the same or similar cue and reward. 

For example:

1. Cue: Place workout clothes and shoes by the door

2. Routine: Jog for 45 minutes

3. Reward: Enjoy the endorphin rush and the peaceful feeling that results from a workout

To change this habit, a person would keep the cue and reward, and change the routine (e.g., substituting weightlifting for running).

Of course, it’s rarely as simple as that, so it helps to begin with overarching “domino’ or keystone habits, then integrate the habits in a systemic approach.

Keystone Habits can relate to culture.

In 1997, Alcoa-aluminum CEO Paul O'Neill, launched a cultural change that became a keystone habit by worker safety — not revenue or profit — his top priority. While the initial reward for Alcoa’s safety habit was the satisfaction of a safer workplace, “domino habits” from scrutinizing manufacturing processes to injury prevention raised morale, efficiency, and revenue by five times.

Similarly, making healthy indoor spaces a keystone habit puts a focus on processes that remove unwanted matter from the environment and eliminating those that redistribute or add pollutants. This is not only healthier and more hygienic, but raises staff morale, quality, and labor-savings.

For example, processes that capture rather than spread dust reduce exposure to airborne dust and asthma triggers, and lower labor for dusting.

A healthy facility cleaning habit raises the quality of cleaning, productivity, and — accompanied by education — staff pride in ensuring a healthier environment.