The world after COVID-19. How will our behaviour change?

Human behaviour is shaped by many factors, but the three major ones...

Human behaviour is shaped by many factors, but the three major ones are:

  • Genetics. Human psychology and behaviour are shaped by our evolutionary past (just ask Charles Darwin).
  • Environment. It seems strange, but it has a significant influence on human behaviour. For example, many hot Mediterranean countries that relied on agriculture developed the tradition of the siesta, an after-lunch nap, to cope with the intense midday heat.
  • Social norms. Often the unspoken rules of a group, they shape not just our behaviours, but also our attitudes towards situations.

Social norms will be the most impacted by the current COVID-19 situation, but the burning question is… what habits are temporary and what will be long-lasting?

Depending on what country you live in, you have probably been on lockdown in your home for about four weeks. Things have changed dramatically, you probably shop online more than ever, work from a remote office, speak with family and friends over video calls and have washed your hands more times in the past four weeks than you have done in the last four years. Keeping in mind that this could continue until deep into the summer or possibly until the end of 2020, these new routines are going to change your behaviour and habits.

Clean, clean, clean

As we become hypersensitive to our environment, some questions will be more frequent. Who was last sitting on that bus seat? Who just touched the button in the elevator? Has that hotel room been cleaned properly? This could even impact how we greet people. Will we be so keen to shake someone’s hand? Or will we simply bow? How we travel will also change. Airlines could introduce mandatory face masks, disinfecting passengers before embarkation. Schools and other public areas will also change the way they handle cleaning, the public will want to know when and how often areas are disinfected and what measures are in place in case of new outbreaks.

Large crowds

This shift may turn out to be economically difficult for many businesses. Restaurants - particularly local ones - might see a spike in bookings with people celebrating the end of social distancing and isolation, but in the long term some attractions such as theme parks, cinemas, football stadiums, shopping malls, large stores, concerts may not see a total recovery of foot-fall to the pre-coronavirus era for many years.


Online shopping, streaming, food delivery – these were all growing rapidly before COVID-19. But with the majority of the population being forced to use these services during lockdown the industry has been accelerated. Now they are not just grabbing new customers, but penetrating more widely into new segments. Those brands with the best customer experience will win the war of the digital eco-system. And those organisations that crack the logistics of delivery, customer service and returns will triumph post-corona.

AI, chatbots and robotics

These have been buzzwords for many years, but so far a truly digital society leveraging machines has been a Hollywood dream rather than reality. What I think we will see is large investment into robots and AI in healthcare and other industries. Not only are robots ‘naturally immune’ to human diseases, but when you add the power of cloud computing and Artificial Intelligence they can improve their prediction accuracy with every test they make. If hospitals can use new technology to replace front line staff in emergency situations, this could save lives. We could also see new technologies, such and autonomous vehicles, being invested in for taxis and public transport, drones for deliveries and virtual reality for football matches and concerts.

What I do know, is that the the world will change and we will change, but our desire for social interaction and entertainment will not. Those brands, companies and organisations which offer the best experience and are in tune with our new behaviours and habits will prevail.