May 29

WFH: How to Beat Reciprocal Determinism and Stay Productive

​You may not have heard of the fancy term Reciprocal Determinism, but in these crazy Coronavirus days where we're all being sent to work from home, it turns out that it's really important!

What Reciprocal Determinism means in the work-at-home sense is that when you're forced to work somewhere that is not usual, your attitude and the attitudes of your boss and work colleagues ​will​ change - and there's nothing you can do about it.

Actually, there's ​loads​ you can do about it, because forewarned is forearmed - when you know that attitudes will change, you have a large say in ​how​ they change.

And that can make the difference between work from home being a failure or a success.

It all comes down to you.

And your attitude...​​​​​​​​​


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​What is Reciprocal Determinism?

​Back in the '80s, psychologist Albert Bandura coined the complicated sounding term 'Reciprocal Determinism', and it is his theory that a person's behaviour (determinism) both influences and is influenced by (reciprocal) personal factors and the social environment.

This extended BF Skinner's theory in the '50s that the social environment alone was responsible for all behaviour.

​What Are The Three Components of Reciprocal Determinism?

It may seem technical and academic, but it's actually straightforward.

There are three components of reciprocal determinism:

  1. 1
    ​Behavioural  Factors
  2. 2
    ​Individual Factors
  3. 3
    ​Social Factors

​Each of these three components has the potential to ​influence any of the others - something Bandura referred to as 'Reciprocal Determinism' or 'Triadic Reciprocal Causation'.

Let's go through each of them.

How to Work From Home...

​and ​stay productive, healthy and sane

Learn how to balance work-life, home-school the kids and keep your boss happy too!


​Behavioural Factors of Reciprocal Determinism

​According to Bandura, an individual's behaviour is influenced by their ​personality and by social factors.

Let's take the example of ​a thrill-seeking ride.

If you are at a sun-soaked beach and one attraction is an eegnub (a reverse bungee jump), your decision of whether to do it depends on whether you are a thrill-seeker or avoider, and on social factors too​.

In Bandura's model, the eegnub is the Behavioural Factor.

​Individual Factors of Reciprocal Determinism

An individual's unique personality plays an important role in how they behave in different situations. Personal factors can influence behaviour such as:

  • ​Emotions (am I excited or afraid?)
  • ​Knowledge (is it safe?)
  • ​Expectations (will I ​get hurt?)

​The responses of these is unique to the individual and varies from one person to the next.

To Bandura, these ​are the Individual Factors.

Considering Individual Factors alone, will ​you ride the eegnub?

​Social Factors of Reciprocal Determinism

Now let's shake it up and say that you are at the beach with a group of friends, who are ​taking turns riding the eegnub. Will you now bow to peer pressure and do it?

Will you feel that you ​have​ to do it because you'll be socially isolated if you don't?​​​

In Bandura's model, these are the Social Factors.

These social factors can change continually throughout an individual's life, too, so that ​a decision to do or not do something can alter many times.

Take the example of a young woman, a risk taker. In her early life she may drive fast, go hang gliding and abseiling. After having children she may consider that the risk:reward ratio of her behaviour is just not worth it any more, so she stops, preferring to get her thrills by throwing impromptu barbecues.

Then later, when her children are grown up she may return to some of her previous riskier habits to once more 'feel alive'.

​​The Three Factors of Reciprocal Determinism

We can see what each of the three factors of Reciprocal Determinism look like.

The Three Components of Reciprocal Determinism

​You can see that each of the factors influences each of the others and ​vice versa.

​Behaviour Influences Individual and Social Factors

​​The behaviour of an individual may influence other individuals and the social environment. For example, if you're unsure of whether to do the eegnub and a friend comes off the ride with an enormous beaming smile on his face, will that influence your decision to do it (Individual Factor)? If the crowd is excited and cheering, will that make you more likely to do it (Social Factor)?

​The Individual Influences ​Behavioural and Social Factors

​​The ​individual may decide not to ride the eegnub (Behavioural Factor). Feeling disappointed, the group of friends may move on to riding donkeys on the beach instead of continuing on the eegnub (Social Factor), thereby changing the social dynamic.

​​Social Factors Influence ​Behavioural and ​Individual Factors

​Alternatively, the group of friends may rally behind the individual, remind them that everyone has ​been safe on the ride and it will all be fine.

The individual may start to feel better about trying the eegnub (Individual Factors) and give it a go (Behavioural Factors).

​What is an Example of Reciprocal Determinism?

A perfect example of Reciprocal Determinism is the situation that millions of office workers are in right now - working from home because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Ordinarily, Sally goes to the office, interacts with ​her colleagues and boss and there is a work dynamic that is 'normal'. The faces and places are ​familiar, the routines are ​ingrained and ​Sally knows what is expected of ​her, both in a social context and a productivity context.

And then ​she is sent to work at home.

Let's look at this from Bandura's perspective.

Changes in Social Factors

When working from home, what changes does Sally experience in terms of Social Factors?

​She is no longer in close contact with colleagues. There is no banter, no water cooler chat, no sharing a laugh about a funny cat video. Sure, she can chat with ​her colleagues via email and WhatsApp, but that's not really the same.

Sally might start to suffer symptoms of isolation, such as loneliness, frustration and sleep disturbance. She may find it difficult to adjust to this 'new normal'.

Changes in ​Individual Factors

​And what changes does she experience in terms of ​Individual Factors?

​Sally is also isolated from her boss. Does he know that she is still working hard when at home? If he calls ​to ​discuss ​her report, will she pick up the phone or will the call come while she's in the bathroom or hanging out the washing?​​

She may worry about what her boss is thinking and could become stressed.

Will that change Sally's behaviour? You can ​be sure that it will!

Changes in Behavioural Factors

You see, when Sally - or anyone - works from home for any length of time, ​there is a HUGE change in behaviour.

You might find yourself procrastinating for long periods and finding a series of tasks to do in the home that prevent you from doing your work. ​Then you feel under pressure because you know you're not doing your work, and eventually someone will notice.

Or you might find yourself doing 12 hour days to make sure your boss knows that you're capable of working from home and you can be trusted.

Neither of these situations is good for your work-life balance or your mental health!

​What is ​the Biggest Advantage of Working From Home?

​One of the biggest benefits of working from home is that you get to set your own schedule instead of sticking to a typical office ​routine.

Are you more productive in the early morning? You might like to get up earlier, get your work done and have more time off later in the day rather than sticking to the rigid 9-5.

Do you have to play a more active role in your child's education now that they are no longer at school? You'll need to make a lot of adjustments for that.

Do you need to ​get groceries for an elderly relative that can't get out to the shops? More adjustments needed!

But this is all good, because you can work on your terms rather than someone else's - as long as you can persuade your boss that neither the quality nor quantity of your work have suffered as a result.

And that can be a tough thing to do - especially if you're new to working from home and haven't got yourself a reliable routine yet.

​​What is The One Secret to Working From Home?

​There are lots of little tips and tricks I can give you to working from home so that you can ​stay productive and physically and mentally fit, but if there was just one life hack that I could give you, it would be this:

​Build a Routine!

The clues were there from the beginning when I laid out the typical office situation:

"​Sally goes to the office, interacts with ​her colleagues and boss and there is a work dynamic that is 'normal'. The faces and places are ​familiar, the routines are ​ingrained and ​Sally knows what is expected of ​her​...".

Everything that you do at the office is part of your daily routine. You arrive at 8:45, get a coffee from the machine, open your email at 9:00, meet friends by the water cooler at 11:15. Go for lunch at 12:30, etc., etc., etc..

This pattern rarely changes, and although your daily office routine isn't written down, ​it is a routine. More than that, it's a ​habit​, and if you want to be productive in your home office​​​, you will need to build new habits.

And that starts with writing down ​the 4 steps to a healthy work-at-home daily routine.

Home Office Tip

These are the 4 essentials to get you started with building your work-at-home daily routine:

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
    Personal Time

​Miss out any one of these and suffer the consequences!

Reciprocal Determinism in The Home Office​​​

​Whether we've heard of the term Reciprocal Determinism or not, when it all comes down to it, it's really important when changes in our environment are inevitable.

These changes mean that our attitudes and behaviours will change too.

​We might not be able to do anything about the changes in our environment, but what we can control is our attitude towards those changes.

So if we accept that the changes we experience are ​manageable​ and ​controllable​ (which they are), then we can adjust our attitude and behaviour to make sure that our experiences when working from home are ​good​ experiences.​​​

And that means embracing the change and findings ways of making it work for us rather than against us.

​How to Work At Home - and be more productive, physically fit and ​sane​ #homeoffice #workfromhome #workfromhomelife

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​​​WFH Reciprocal Determinism - A Summary

​You might think your home isn't necessarily the best place to get stuff done​.

​​Millions of us must ​work at home because of the Coronavirus, though, and it's ​straining ​the productivity and physical ​and mental health of people ​across the ​world.

But ​it doesn't have to.

​It all comes down to having the right attitude.

​As we've discovered, behaviours, personal attitudes and interactions with friends, family and colleagues all influence each other according to the principle of Reciprocal Determinism.

Change one and you will probably change one or both of the other.

But you can control some of these changes.

So if you're working from home and struggling to keep a work-life balance, just remember that you might not be able to control the world (or Coronavirus) but you can control your reaction to it.

Oh, yes - and make sure you build up that routine. I guarantee you that making new, ​good​ habits will get you through this.​​​

​How to Work ​From Home

​If you're struggling with the isolation of working at home, ​check out ​our exclusive video course How to Work From Home, where I take you through ​everything you need to know to increase your productivity, ​whilst staying physically and mentally fit in your home office.

This course is Open Access to start with - you don't even need to register!

As part of the course you'll get an Ultra-HD pdf of ​the mind map of How to Work From Home to download and keep, and I'll share with you where you can also get your own poster to pin on your wall.

If you want to continue learning, you can start from the beginning here:

How to Work From Home...

​and ​stay productive, healthy and sane

Learn how to balance work-life, home-school the kids and keep your boss happy too!


I look forward to seeing you on the inside!

​Recommended Reading

Below are a few books that I highly recommend reading.​

Check them out, and if there are any similar books that you recommend, let me know in the comments below and I'll add them.

Who knows? Maybe in time we'll have a whole library here!

And yes - they are big, fat, hairy scary affiliate links...


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