Traffic light badges for communicating your attitude to social distancing.

Warren Hutchinson
Jun 16, 2020 · 3 min read

Photo by Alex King on Unsplash

People have wildly different attitudes to social distancing guidelines, but some should think about the implications on others.

As I write this, here in the UK we’re about 14 weeks into this COVID-19 situation. Although, it seems to me that despite any supporting evidence, we are relaxing restrictions and gambling with people’s lives to kick-start the economy.

I get it. This is politics at its most grave. It’s a difficult choice and grim calculation to balance a need to suppress the virus with the reignition of the economy, (this was the lead story in The Economist back on 4th April 2020).

The thing that strikes me about this is how, in our daily lives, we have total extremes in terms of behaviour. At one end, you see people observing social distancing guidelines, wearing face masks and being careful what they touch. While at the other end, people have switched-off, you see people in supermarkets, leaning across others and wandering whichever way pleases them. If you say anything, it’s usually met with “Chill out, mate.”

Depending upon your viewpoint, you’ll interpret these the relaxing of the lockdown and an adjustment of guidelines in a way that suits you. That’s fine, we’re all living our lives. While I might be a bit judgemental at some for flouting social distancing rules, this is motivated by their disrespect of others.

Of course, it’s up to you if you want to put your self at risk, but I get annoyed when people impress their relaxed attitude on others. They have no idea what is going on in someone else’s world. They could live with someone vulnerable, or for whatever reason, it may be critical to their dependants that they do not get ill.

At the heart of this is that we don’t know how seriously people are taking or need to take the situation. Some people need to take the guidelines seriously, while others don’t care, and many are somewhere in between. It’s confusing to little people, my son doesn’t understand why some people aren’t helping those that need protecting.

In behavioural design, we use a model called MINDSPACE which is one of the most effective models we’ve encountered at ELSE for mapping a decision-making landscape is MINDSPACE. It was developed by the UK Government to help develop policies, design and practices that take account of how people think when asking them to make decisions and change behaviours — more on the framework and how to use it in design here).

So I had an idea. What if you could display your attitude to social distancing when out in public so that people could respond accordingly? I.e. nudge the Norms component of Mindspace.

We could implement a simple traffic light badge system. If you wear a red badge, it shows that you are taking the guidelines seriously and would like people around you to be respectful, patient and keep a distance.

If you are less bothered, maybe you could wear amber, which says you’re taking precautions and being respectful of others but not so worried yourself.

And then green for those that… Oh, hang on. If you’re relaxed in your approach, think the whole thing is a conspiracy or you believe that the cure is worse than the cause — you’re not going to care too much about communicating with other people so you won’t wear one. That’s fine.

But, if you saw someone with a red badge, I’m sure most people would respect their decision/situation and give them a wide berth and refrain from the ‘Chill out, mate” attitude. Or at least I’d hope they would.

It could apply to people in supermarkets, children in schools, commuters on public transport.

Maybe it would provide the information needed for people to understand that not everyone is in the same boat and that the point of the behavioural guidelines is to protect those who are vulnerable.

It’s a simple idea. It’s just a thought.

ELSE

ELSE is an Experience Design Consultancy helping businesses…

ELSE

ELSE is an Experience Design Consultancy helping businesses create transformative product and service opportunities. We work with business leaders on innovation and digital transformation projects — from large multinationals to lean start-ups.

Warren Hutchinson

Written by

Founder & Chief Experience Officer at ELSE - An experience design consultancy helping businesses to create products & services that change behaviour.

ELSE

ELSE is an Experience Design Consultancy helping businesses create transformative product and service opportunities. We work with business leaders on innovation and digital transformation projects — from large multinationals to lean start-ups.

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