A Motivational Model to influence Energy Behaviour at the Workplace:
The role of Gamification, Geolocation and Sensors
Dimosthenis Kotsopoulos, Athens University of Economics and Business,
Cleopatra Bardaki, Athens University of Economics and Business, email@example.com
Katerina Pramatari, Athens University of Economics and Business, firstname.lastname@example.org
Amidst the second decade of the 21st century, a worldwide economic crisis has shaken
the foundations of the worldwide economic, as well as business scene. Further to the
obvious and widely considered macroeconomic, as well as microeconomic consequences,
a more discrete effect has received little attention. The impact of the crisis on the
workforce has been described almost solely in terms of variations in the unemployment
rates, while the effects on workforce engagement, which defines the employees’
motivation towards all work related aspects, as well as initiatives, have received much
less attention. However, statistic evidence suggest that engaged employees worldwide
account for a surprisingly low percentage – thirteen percent of the total workforce, or one
in every eight workers - in a phenomenon Gallup calls “the worldwide engagement crisis”
(Mann & Harter, 2016).
Gamification, a relatively new instrument in the “orchestra of motivation”, offers a
promising alternative to the strict corporate rules and policies that usually dictate the
employees’ conduct, by adhering to their intrinsic motivation. It has been suggested as a
powerful way to change behavior, create motivation, increase and sustain employee
engagement and productivity within an enterprise (Webb, 2013),(Pickard, 2015).
Therefore, to reverse the disappointing engagement trends, several leading companies are
turning to gamification (Uskov & Sekar, 2015). Simultaneously, two promising
technological giants have risen, to invisibly, as well as ubiquitously accompany us in our
every move. The advancement of geolocation technologies, that has led to the
introduction of location-based services and custom content delivery, and sensors of all
types and flavors that are installed to measure countless parameters in the workplace.
We aim to investigate the effect of gamification, selectively featuring geolocation and
sensors, on employee motivation towards energy conservation at the workplace. To
identify and assess the different parameters involved in our targeted behavior, we have
performed a review of the relevant literature and constructed a research model, which we
aim to validate through our ongoing experiments.
A multitude of theories, based on different premises, have been developed, to analyze
and explain employee motivation. Their principal objective is to identify and classify the
intricate driving forces of the behavior of the human capital within the work environment,
in order to leverage them towards employee engagement and enhanced business
outcomes. At the same time, a variety of the aforementioned theories have been adopted
to explain the motivational power of gamification, in an effort to harness its effects and
allow for a more efficient deployment of gamification initiatives. However, the majority
of researchers suggest that Ryan & Deci’s Self Determination Theory (SDT) and its sub-
theories should be employed, to more efficiently explain and utilize the motivational
effects of gamification. This theory suggests competence, relatedness and autonomy as
the basic antecedents of intrinsic motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000).
Motivational theories have also been recruited, to explain pro-environmental, as well as
energy conservation behaviours, in various environments. Values - Beliefs - Norms (VBN)
theory links value theory, norm-activation theory, and the New Environmental Paradigm
(NEP) perspective, through a causal chain of five variables leading to behaviour: personal
values (especially altruistic values) as recorded by NEP, Awareness of Consequences (AC)
and Ascription of Responsibility (AR), beliefs about general conditions in the biophysical
environment, as well as personal norms for pro-environmental action (Stern, 2000).
Furthermore, Scherbaum et al. have specifically examined individual-level factors related
to employee energy-conservation behaviours at work, based on the VBN theory.
According to their conclusions, environmental personal norms and environmental
worldviews are factors that can be leveraged in organizational interventions concerning
employee energy use (Scherbaum, Popovich, & Finlinson, 2008).
Gamification, in its most widely accepted definition, has been defined as “the use of
game design elements (e.g. points, badges, etc.) in non-game contexts” (Deterding, Sicart,
Nacke, O’Hara, & Dixon, 2011). The most commonly stated objective behind using
gamification is to encourage behaviour change in end-users, whether that behaviour
change involves increased participation, improved performance, or greater compliance
(Seaborn & Fels, 2014). Introducing games into the workplace has a considerable history.
Two notable relevant research areas, include using games as human resources tools or as
entertainment interfaces, for repetitive tasks like computer process management (Nikkila,
Linn, Sundaram, & Kelliher, 2011). Furthermore, at least two precursors to the
gamification-of-work movement have been documented in the literature. The Soviet
Union workplace-based “socialist competition” experiments, and the 1990s-2000s
American management trend of “fun at work” (Nelson, 2012). It is important to also note
that, when designing gamified applications for the workplace, we have to consider the
level of engagement of the participating employees – engaged, non-engaged, or actively
disengaged (Prakash & Rao, 2015). In addition, by using geolocation and sensor derived
information, we can interpret user behaviour when they interact with the gamification
system, and dynamically determine which game elements should be triggered, as well as
derive cues, such as entering, leaving, or while in a context.
We emphasize that existing research on the use of gamification to increase motivation
towards energy conservation has thus far primarily focused on private households.
Through our research, we will examine the ways in which the specific motivating
parameters that lead to energy conservation at the workplace can be activated or enhanced,
by applying gamification towards that end.
Research Approach Outline
Our target in employing gamification at the workplace is to increase employee
motivation towards energy conservation. To affect this behavior, we aim to apply
gamification, adapted to the contextual
characteristics of the workplace, utilizing
geolocation and sensor-captured information
where available. Based on the review of the
relative literature, as well as our own
observations in real work environments, we
devised a research a research model to
investigate the enactment of this behaviour
(see Figure 1). First, we posit that the
personality, as well as the environmental awareness profile of employees, influences their
energy consumption profile. In addition, the contextual characteristics of the workplace
(and especially the introduction of geolocation and sensors) influence the gamification
application’s overall effectiveness on behavioural change (by affecting the utilized game
design elements’ functionality). These two factors, namely the employee energy
consumption profile and the gamification app’s design elements, combined with the level
of overall employee engagement, directly affect motivation for energy conservation at the
workplace. Finally, the level of motivation for energy conservation at the workplace,
leads to the specific actual energy consumption behaviour enacted by the employees.
Overall, we aspire to assess how different employee energy consumption profiles and
different implementations of a game app, combined with several levels of employee
engagement, affect employee motivation towards a more energy-sensitive behaviour at
the workplace. This unfolds into the following research questions: (a) what is the effect of
gamification on employee motivation towards energy conservation at the workplace? (b)
Does employee profile have an impact on the effectiveness of gamification on employee
motivation towards reducing the energy consumption in a corporate environment? (c)
Does the introduction of geolocation and/or sensor-derived information in a gamification
app enhance the effect on employee motivation towards reducing the consumption of
energy in a corporate environment?
We will design and apply gamified mobile applications in six different workplaces, in
the course of two EU H2020 research projects, whose objective is to motivate employees
towards reducing energy consumption at the workplace. We aim to verify, as well as
Figure 1: Motivational Model
possibly extend our model by introducing additional factors, should they arise in the
process, by conducting experiments in six pilot installations, featuring different work
environments and located in different EU countries.
We have already conducted unstructured interviews with employees in the six pilot
sites, as well as deployed a questionnaire that is currently being completed by the
prospective employees – gamified app users, in order to ascertain their personal
characteristics, game preferences, as well as energy consumption and environmental
awareness profile. These results will feed the design of the gamified app per site. A series
of experiments will consequently be implemented, in order to test our research model and
answer our research questions. To avoid bias, the experiments will be executed
simultaneously in the six different pilot sites, with different groups of users. At the same
time, the different contextual characteristics of the various pilot sites will be considered
both in the deployment of the gamified apps, as well as the analysis of the results. We
shall record both the users’ perceived impact of the apps on their energy consumption, as
well as the compared actual energy measurements before and after the application of
We are currently collecting baseline / control data on the employees’ / participants’
energy consumption, before any gamification app is introduced. We shall compare this
data with the energy consumption during the gamification application experimentation
phase, so that after the completion of our experiments we can draw our conclusions. We
plan to assess the effect (variance) on the consumption of energy between groups of
employees. Each group shall be using a gamified application, designed to match the
contextual characteristics of their respective workspace. That way, we shall be in a
position to compare the respective effects of the gamified apps’ characteristics on
employee motivation. We shall furthermore analyze, group, and / or contrast our results,
to address the research questions we have set forth.
So far we have managed to uncover the research gap that exists in the bibliography,
with regards to the effect of gamification towards employee motivation for energy
conservation at the workplace. Furthermore, the application of gamification, utilizing the
geolocation and sensor derived information available in the modern work environment
has not been systematically explored. We have consequently designed a research model to
explain and measure the respective effects of the parameters that influence employees
towards conserving energy at their workplace. Moreover, we believe we will complement
the theory on employee motivation by assessing the motivational power of new,
innovative technological means (gamification, geolocation and sensors) towards specific
goals, such as employees’ energy conservation at the workplace. Respectively, from a
practical point of view, we will derive design guidelines for the application of
gamification towards energy conservation, especially at the workplace.
Acknowledgment: This research study is partially funded by the EU Horizon 2020
project Entropy http://entropy-project.eu/ .
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