In the ‘new normal’ people will frequently encounter social distancing issues; it’s an area fraught with problems for retailers and public transport operators but behavioural science offers some pointers.

Whilst there has been a considerable focus on communications to motivate social, or more accurately, physical distancing, less attention has been paid to how to help people maintain physical distancing and dwell time in busy, high traffic areas.

People may understand the need to keep a physical distance from others and have every intention of doing so, but it’s not necessarily easy to achieve in places like stations, shops, bars, high streets, parks and beaches.

There is often an intention-action gap due to the contexts in which we find ourselves, according to The Behavioural Architects. People can find it hard to follow instructions and signs for a number or reasons: they are on autoplilot, the volume of signage means they don’t take in relevant information, signs may be badly written (whether illegible type or overly complex language), the designated route may not be the obvious route.

In a new ‘toolkit’, the agency suggests that behavioural science concepts can “gently shape or nudge behaviour to keep people moving in a steady flow, with little or no dwell time, as spaced out as possible, at the same time discouraging antisocial, potentially unsafe behaviours so as to create more cohesive, kinder behaviour”.

Public transport operators wanting to discourage large numbers of people from travelling at the same time, for example, might want to change the default by incentivising travel at different times, while retailers facing in-store traffic problems could build salient visual cues, using colour-coded pathways.

And since most people want to fit in, these organisations will also will want to communicate the new social norm of physical distancing (and wearing a mask).

Sourced from The Behavioural Architects