The risk of COVID-19 is not the only factor that determines compliance with the coronavirus measures; other risks also play a role. Examples include reduced quality of work and care, or loneliness and mental health problems that may occur due to the measures. Formal and informal key figures in organisations and networks play an important role in compliance, in following the measures, and in finding ways to humanise their implementation. These findings came out of interviews conducted by RIVM in recent months with people from civil society in the Netherlands.

What do you do if you work in education, vocational instruction or healthcare, and can no longer do your work according to your usual standards? Or if loneliness or a lack of physical safety are the direct consequences of working from home or staying 1.5 metres apart? In recent months, RIVM explored these questions and more through in-depth interview with people in the Netherlands – professionals and private individuals. The research findings revealed that the virus and the measures resulted in numerous dilemmas. Compliance with the measures often led to major challenges for professionals, especially among vulnerable groups. Intentions to comply with the rules sometimes collapsed under unavoidable pressure, or sometimes even without full awareness of the people involved.

Each dilemma involved a different consideration, because there was so much at stake. In some families in which the parents were forced to work from home, tensions rose so high that children ended up in unsafe situations and child protection services had to intervene, despite the risks of infection. It was striking to note that analysis and risk assessment – usually thorough and meticulous – took place over and over in each situation. 

Re-evaluating the internal status quo

The RIVM study also revealed that the COVID-19 crisis led to a period of re-evaluation in many organisations, not only reviewing overdue maintenance, but also contemplating the role in society.  This often led to key insights, lateral thinking and creative solutions. Significant strides were made, especially in digital progress. In various places, social media was used to restore contact and digital support was provided to people who were particularly struggling with the consequences of the measures.  

Trial and error

Because the virus took everyone by surprise at first, the actual practice of implementation primarily involved a lot of ‘learning by doing’. It is relevant to note that where this process took place in cooperation with all those involved, such as professionals, volunteers and clients, it had a positive impact on widespread support and confidence in the local approach.

About the study

A study on examples from actual practice (in Dutch) by the RIVM Corona Behavioural Unit collected stories from society in the Netherlands. The stories show how people handle the coronavirus measures in their own environment, the struggles they experience, and the creative solutions they come up with to cope as well as possible with any problems they encounter and the consequences of the measures. In the context of this study, 30 stories have now been published, grouped into eight different themes, such as sports, work and care. A memorandum on the impact of COVID-19 measures on stakeholders in organisations and networks: five lessons from actual practice (published in Dutch) outlines the main lessons learned and insights gained from narrative research among organisations and networks in civil society in the Netherlands. These insights are not only important for the current pandemic control measures, but also for future policy in times of crisis.