• Maaria Nuutinen, Jaakko Paasi

Mixed feelings? – Human perspective in pursuing towards keeping activities running during pandemics

In Finland, formal restrictions due to Covid-19 pandemic are history, at least at the moment. Many of us welcome the possibility to breath more freely without face masks, to see expressions in face-to-face meetings at offices, to gather in concerts, sport events and other large indoor activities. The new freedom, however, can cause concerns or mixed feelings among people who are vulnerable to Covid-19 or have high personal health and safety preferences. How could I know if a space is safe or not? Should I or we still do some protective measures? People simply need some kind of guidance in order to feel secured, as we know that the virus is still among us.


Health security is the key word in the E3 Co-innovation project (Excellence in Pandemic Response and Enterprise Solutions) that aims to develop solutions that allow the various functions of society to continue uninterrupted and people to continue to move and live safely despite the epidemics and pandemics.


As part of this very interdisciplinary project, human factors affecting the development and use of targeted solutions will be studied.. Utilized approaches build on experience design, human centric design and human factors of socio-technical systems thinking.



Understanding human and organizational activities


The starting point in creating health secure user experience is to understand human behaviour in terms of both the spread of the virus and the means of preventing it.


When the aim is to keep indoor activities up and running during pandemics, it is necessary to identify the core activity that the indoor place is designed for: an office for working, a hospital for helping people to heal, etc.


Each of these contexts has its own characteristics when it comes to people’s roles, organizational processes, and opportunities to influence people’s behaviour without compromising the core activities.



Designing the human – space and human- technology interaction


When aiming to enhance space design or develop technologies to help indoor activities to remain viable during pandemics, it is important to explore how the space or envisioned technology frames the flow of activities and what are touchpoints between them and human activity both in terms of end user and operations.


The touchpoints do not always require awareness of the end users (e.g. breathing indoor air cleaned by an air filter) but might need certain activities of other people (e.g. changing the filter by maintenance personnel). It could be useful to think about different scenarios where the mode of interaction would change.


For example, in a low risk situation, the end users may not need to know anything about the safety and heathy issues managed at background, but when at a risk, guiding information can be provided for them.



Pursuing towards enhanced experiences


The aim of keeping activities up and running during pandemic with no or minimum disturbance is an ambitious goal. However, we can pursue beyond that: to enable even better user experience (UX) when conducting the core activity.


This can be approached by experience design through defining UX visions and goals for studied contexts and exploring the role of envisioned solutions in it.


UX visions and goals describe kinds of experiences the product, solution or service should evoke in the users. In the work context, user experience is the way person feels about using the product, service, or solution, and how it shapes the image of oneself as professional.


No doubt that we could develop solutions that mitigate the spread of pathogens, but, in the end, it is human factors that define whether people accept them or not.


Therefore, the most important thing in the design of the solutions is empathy – to get into the shoes of the people who would use your solutions, to see the world as they see it, and to feel what they feel. When successful, people do not enter an indoor space with mixed feelings. Instead, they experience of being health secured.



Maaria Nuutinen & Jaakko Paasi

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland Ltd


More information on the design approach of UX visions and goals here.



Photos: Canva