Human Factors
and COVID-19

Human Factors and COVID-19

Summary: This article provides an intro to some Human Factors considerations in relation to COVID-19, and indirectly infectious diseases in general.

By Greg Hallihan on February 24, 2021

The scale of behavioural change associated with Covid-19 is unprecedented, and depending on where you live, these changes may be mandated or recommended. Regardless, when people are being asked to change the way they behave it’s necessary to consider how those changes will be perceived and the impact they will have. Human Factors specialist provide a unique perspective on the way policies can be designed with human psychology in mind.

A great example of the Human Factors involved in COVID-19 restrictions is the cognitive biases associated with decision making under uncertainty. Individuals are interpreting the risks and benefits associated with things like wearing masks or getting vaccines through their own unique lens. This interpretation will be influenced by the way we are innately wired to process information.

Confirmation Bias refers to the tendency for people to seek out or process information in a way that will support their pre-existing beliefs or preferences. This will influence how individuals perceive the credibility of information they receive from certain sources or how they search for it on the web. Considering how people are accessing and interpreting information in this way can help in the design of public health communications.

Another example of Human Factors and COVID-19 is the application of behavioural research tools to see how well policies or recommendations are adapted to specific contexts. Consider how social distancing guidelines intended to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission may not be achievable in all contexts.

Table top exercises and in-situ simulation can provide detailed insight into how specific activities may be difficult to do while maintaining social distance. However, these methodologies can simultaneously reveal opportunities to re-design environments or procedures to keep employees or customers safe in these unique contexts.

Safer Systems Through Better Design

Effective Infection Prevention and Control requires strategies that take into consideration characteristics of the disease, as well as characteristics of the humans that the strategies depend on. Human Factors provides a framework to design interventions for specific contexts that will be more effective at reducing the risk of transmission. Human Insights can support the operationalization of health recommendations to support compliance and reduce risk for specific populations and contexts.

This technical report provides an in-depth example of the the way Human Factors consulting can support the design of safer healthcare environments and policies.

Human Factors Recommendations for Ebola Virus Disease (Report)

Have questions about how Human Factors and COVID-19 are related to helping your organization stay safe while operating during a pandemic?