Most Covid-19-induced positive behaviours are here to stay

17 August 2020 5 min. read
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Around two thirds of residents in the United Arab Emirates say that much of the changed habits, routines and practices they have adopted during the Covid-19 are here to stay.

Amid Covid-19, a remarkable range of behavioural changes have taken place across the globe – many of which been unimaginable before the virus emerged. Contactless payments have become the norm in places that have been ruled by cash for years, elderly people have joined the rush to online channels for booking care and activities, and online grocery shopping has taken off.

According to an assessment from Kearney and BVA Nudge Unit, since the onset of the crisis more than 60 behaviours have changed at the individual, organizational, and government levels, across five key aspects of life: well-being and personal growth, family and community, digitalisation, economic health, and sustainability.

Many positive behavior changes have been observed during the COVID-19 pandemic

Andreea Zugravu, a Principal at Kearney, said that the degree of social and behavioural change which is currently being witnesses is “unlike anything we have seen before.” She added, “the pandemic has not only encouraged personal change, but also spurred changes in some longstanding social constructs.”

An overview of the some of the most notable changes identified:

Economic behaviours

While the UAE has been transitioning towards a cashless society as part of the Smart Government initiative and Vision 2021, the coronavirus containment measures have boosted contactless and online payments. 41% of those surveyed have avoided the use of cash during the pandemic and have opted for cashless transactions.

40% acknowledged having saved more money in the past few months as compared to the pre-crisis period. Not surpisingly, those with the lowest income levels have shown the largest willingness to increase savings during this period (47%). 

Wellbeing and personal growth

Many respondents have adopted improved behaviours since the onset of the pandemic, with over half (51%) spending more time on personal hygiene. Almost a third (30%) have increased the amount of time spent on improving their mental health compared to pre-pandemic, with more women (34%) doing so than men (28%). Similarly, 37% of all respondents reported increased physical movement and exercise during this period (women: 42%, men: 34%). 

People in the UAE are also leveraging their improved work-life balance due to working from home to spend more time with their loved ones.

Work behaviours

Almost a third (32%) of those surveyed spent more time attending online conferences and webinars. Due to remote working, 38% of respondents have adopted digital telecommunication tools, with 34% working more days from home as compared to the pre-Covid-19 period. 

Meanwhile, Covid-19 has seen jobs slashed or is putting them on the line, and as a result, 36% of respondents have searched for other work opportunities. 

From a company perspective, organisations are adopting greener supply chains, and a growing number are embracing purpose as a core strategy. Countries are seeing entire shifts in economic activity, and digital transformation is accelerating, in particular across the government and healthcare sectors to support citizens. 

Here to stay

Based on their survey, Kearney and BVA Nudge Unit believe that the majority of these changed behaviours will be retained in the ‘new normal’. “55% of the respondents expect to retain the behaviours they have adopted during the pandemic,” said Zugravu. If these improved habits are sustained, then they can have “long-lasting positive implications for UAE’s society.” 

Étienne Bressoud, Deputy CEO of BVA Nudge Unit added, “With the right support from governments and organisations, these positive changes have the potential to transform society for the better.” 

Rudolph Lohmeyer, a Partner at Kearney however warned that, as with any organisational change, embedding new ways of thinking and handling does not come easy, with many people at risk of falling back to previously comforted routines. “Harnessing the positive behavioral impacts of Covid-19 will not happen by itself. It will require intentional action and support.”

The authors call on companies and government to put in place a range of behavioural interventions.

What organisations can do to make change stick:

Organizations can take steps to build on the positive changes seen during the pandemic

What governments can do to make change stick:

Governments can use a range of behavioral interventions to help citizens retain positive pandemic habits

The UAE analysis come within a week of a similar study on the state of Saudi Arabia’s post-Covid-19 society. Teaming up with non-profit thinktank Al Aghar Group, Kearney predicted that despite all the hardship, ultimately the Covid-19 crisis will fuel ‘positive social change’ on the back of nine strategic imperatives.