By Laura Bishop, Director of Human Risk Science at OutThink
When humans feel mental possession over an object, it becomes an extension of themselves. Even though they might not legally own the item they will still feel a sense of attachment to it, wanting to protect it and avoid its loss. Psychological ownership increases perceptions of value and leaves humans viewing an object more favourably. Therefore, increasing psychological ownership of work technology in your organisation is beneficial.
Hot desk policies, cloud-based storage, and prevention of technology customisation can all reduce mental ownership of the technology employees use. This leaves them unconcerned if a cyber-attack renders the computer or its contents unusable.
Psychological ownership is centred around the human decision-making heuristic known as the endowment effect. Humans place a higher value on items they own than on similar items they do not. If two people are given different items of the same value, they will be unwilling to swap no matter which of the two items they had received.
Psychological ownership also exists in practices such as password creation. An experiment by Renaud, Otondo & Warkentin found people unwilling to change their password routines and expect to be paid more to do so than those around them.
How do you increase the feeling of psychological ownership around work technology?
- By allowing control of the item
- Investing time and effort in it
- Coming to intimately know it
How do you apply these three factors to work technology within an organisation?
Control is how much an employee is allowed or able to manipulate the technology for their personal comfort. To increase psychological ownership employees could be encouraged to exert control over their computer by angling it away from the light, raising it to their personal eye level, adjusting the screen brightness and more.
Other simple ways for employees to exert control is by personalising the technology such as the ringtone on their work mobile phone or using a personal photo as a screen saver.
Other personal marks they could apply include chosen desktop icons, apps and taskbar links that make them feel more in control. By allowing some level of personal adaptation of company technology employees will come to instantly recognise it as theirs and feel a personal attachment to it. This state of attachment will result in them being less willing to take risks that may result in a loss of the item, or its contents.
Self-investment increases psychological ownership, and this is possible even in a workplace setting. There are some barriers to this. Employees are not generally involved in the repair and maintenance of the object, and data is largely stored in the cloud. Self-investment can be increased by ensuring the technology confirms the employee’s identity. Higher level staff appreciate a computer of a higher spec than those used by the people underneath them.
Employees can also self-invest in the creation of their work technology by being involved in personalisation during set-ups. They can help choose software or the colour of their laptop case.
If hot-desking is unavoidable, employees should have automatic recall of their personal settings available via a computer profile that will showcase their self-investment when they are using it.
Psychological ownership also increases when staff feel closely linked to their work technology. The key to this is ensuring you provide each employee with technology that will last a while.
Employees need to grow alongside their technology, identifying it through its bumps and scratches received over time. Employees relate to technology through the memories and experiences they have linked to it such as the view from the window when they are working on their computer.
The technology should be perceived as enabling their experiences such as helping them remember meetings, call saved contact numbers, and reading work emails outside of the office. Even bothersome aspects of the technology, such as an app that periodically shuts down, will increase psychological ownership.
Therefore, employees need to find comfort in the ageing, memories, and experiences bound around the technology they use. If you do supply employees with a piece of technology that has been used by somebody else, ensure all previous owner contamination is erased to allow their personal journey to begin.
Every organisation wants their employees to value their technology more and feel motivated to keep it secure. By allowing employees to invest time and effort in creating, personalising, maintaining, and storing information within work technology psychological ownership can be increased. The need to protect the technology and avoid its loss at all costs will also increase.
FUEL has partnered with leading cybersecurity company OutThink to include its award-winning human risk management platform as one of the software solutions we offer clients.
OutThink received the highest possible score from ratings body Gartner Peer Insights, as well as a Seal of Excellence award from the European Innovation Council.
Please feel free to get in touch to find out how OutThink can help protect your business from cybercrime.