Default option refers to what you will be given if you fail to make a choice. According to studies, options, such as opting in or out of a policy, may have a significant impact on the society. As such, businesses, governments, and other organizations are using default options to make changes.

Understanding Default Option

In order to understand default option and its deployment in the workplace, you should consider three fundamental concepts from well-known behavioral economics experts Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. These concepts include:

  • Mindless choosing
  • Choice architecture
  • Libertarian paternalism

Mindless choosing refers to the act of making decisions in automatic thinking mode. While people are in this mode, they do not consider all the options available, making them more susceptible to influences or biases.

Choice architecture, on the other hand, suggests that an unbiased choice does not exist. The option between red and blue is not the same as the option between blue and red, especially in relation to other environmental factors. Options are presented as inherently biased, favoring one over another, even unconsciously. As such, it requires a lot of architecture to create and present options.

Finally, libertarian paternalism is an oxymoron that describes a fundamental principle that choice architects should follow. It is vital to maintain freedom, but the choice architect needs to have an ethical responsibility to nudge decision-makers toward options that serve their best interests.

Opt In or Opt Out

In some countries, governments are revising their retirement savings schemes, enrolling workers automatically if they do not actively opt out. According to a report from the Nudge Unit, the UK government's behavioral insights team, the opt-out rate was only nine percent in the initial year of the rollout and the participation rate increased from 36 percent to 71 percent in companies that previously made it mandatory for their employees to proactively make a choice.

The impact of these opt-out policy changes can be seen in other sectors as well, such as organ donation rates in the healthcare sector. Also, online retailers are known to use default settings to increase their revenues. When you are booking a flight, the travel website may presume that you also need extra baggage, travel insurance, accommodations, or car rental. The UK's Financial Conduct Authority states that they should investigate whether or not default settings are causing consumers to purchase products they do not wish to buy.

Default options are prevalent. Mobile phone plans, investment profiles, and home energy tariffs are frequently set to a default option. These defaults may be useful, especially if they remove barriers to activities that are beneficial to you. However, you should still try to find a particular plan that suits your needs and preferences.

Default Option in Employee Benefits

According to research, employee benefits are the third-most significant factor for determining job satisfaction. However, only 27 percent of employees report that they are very satisfied with the benefits they are receiving.

Companies can use the default option to promote participation in benefits enrollment. For example, in recent years, many companies have started to default employees into their retirement savings programs. However, employees can opt out from the programs if they wish. The default option is being utilized with libertarian paternalism to nudge employees toward something that is beneficial to them, which will eventually lead to greater job satisfaction.

Default Option in Training and Development

Companies can also deploy the default option to drive participation in programs related to training and development. Considering how busy they are, employees may see training and development as a burden and feel discouraged to participate. However, social science suggests that employees are actually more engaged when they are undergoing training and development.

By allowing their employees to opt out of learning and development programs, companies can actually increase participation among employees. However, they should be careful not to seem authoritarian. This is why it is essential for the opt-out option to be clear, straightforward, and easy.

As long as people have the freedom of choice, they are less inclined to think that the initiative is being forced upon them, which makes them more likely to participate. This approach uses a number of behavioral economic principles, including the above-mentioned status quo bias, commitment and consistency that makes people feel compelled to stay consistent with past choices, and psychological reactance, which emphasizes the significance of autonomy in decision-making.

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