Compliance fatigue 

Published May 18, 2021, 12:26 AM

by James Deakin


After spending two sweltering, sweaty summers indoors, the news of our condo pool finally opening up travelled through the digital grapevine like a shot of frozen tequila. You could almost hear the excitement through the walls – or maybe that’s just the sound that paint makes when it finally stops having to suffer the role reversal of watching humans dry. But for the “inmates” of my beloved vertical community, last week’s announcement to switch from MECQ to EWAN Q, couldn’t have come a second sooner for those who have been slow cooking in their units since March 2020.

Excited, I arrived at the pool deck with my towel, shades, AirPods, floral shirt and sunblock and zeroed in on a deck chair to dump my stuff. I see the clear blue water of the newly renovated pool glistening in the sun and could almost taste the freedom of normal life again – until I was interrupted by a voice behind that said “Ay, sorry po sir. Pero only one resident per hour is allowed. And you must pre book. Next slot is one week from now” I felt like someone just pee’d on my parade. “For safety po, sir” was the final shake at the end.

Now I’m not going to hate on manong guard; he was simply following orders and doing his job. I can respect that. But it doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Not necessarily because I wasn’t allowed to swim, but because of the reason for it – or lack thereof. Bear with me, I have a point buried in here somewhere.

According to the WHO, a well-maintained and chlorinated pool is considered safe. Always has been. They recommend social distancing of course, both in and out of the pool, but are very clear that swimming itself is safe. So at the risk of being the Karen in the room, if that is already the published international guideline, from the global authority themselves, I have to ask: Why do we feel the need to take creative license with it and randomly suggest just one person at a time?

Might seem trivial in the grand scheme of things, but this is not about my personal experience. This is about our obsession with taking creative license with already universally agreed upon global standards. Period. If a guideline says six feet, why make it 10 or more? If one unified QR code is enough to achieve contact tracing, why does almost every establishment insist on having one each? If masks, social distancing and hand washing is the globally recognized trifecta to personal protection, why do we require a face shield as well?

Think about it: From motorcycle barriers, mandatory face shields, plastic dividers hanging in buses and jeepneys, random liquor bans, or banning jogging and biking in private villages, to forcing people to fill out countless individual contact tracing forms per establishment even if they aren’t linked to any centralized contact tracing program, the list of redundant or baseless restrictions are endless and suffocating, and the Filipino has reached compliance fatigue trying to keep up. Tama na please. It’s not the sacrifice that is the issue here, it’s doing it in vain.

Ironically, I’m pretty sure that some of these people implementing these extra rules may even feel they are only doing it for our own protection, justifying it with the old, “better safe than sorry” adage. But padding the rules or creating unnecessary safety buffers as a strategy to get better compliance is never a good idea, especially in a pandemic, where keeping the messaging as simple and repetitive as possible is the key to higher rates of compliance. If you don’t believe me, try scheduling your meetings an hour earlier than they really are, just so you build in the “buffer” for those who are “always late” and then let me know how the job hunting is going in a month.

The only thing that will happen is that serial latecomers will – upon the realization that they have been fooled into being punctual – immediately adjust their own internal bastos buffer and simply revert to being late again because that’s what late people do – be bastos. While the ones who once-upon-a-time respected you and took your word at face value, will now feel patronized, insulted, confused and unwilling to cooperate anymore. Same goes with the use of cosmetic security for COVID. It’s not only useless, it erodes trust, cooperation, respect and in the end, creates compliance fatigue.

And that’s my point here. We have to stop allowing establishments or agencies from applying their creative license with tried and proven, universally agreed upon practices, which have been arrived at based on scientific evidence that has shown to be truly safe and effective, and not just provide the temporary artificial feeling of it. There’s an international standard for a reason and imposing unproven personal ones only creates confusion and problems.  It’s like telling people to stop at every green light just to be extra safe, because you know, someone might try to beat the red light on the other side. That’s not how it works.

Trust me, we have a big enough task adhering to the globally agreed upon mandatories, not to mention a monumental national vaccine program to support, so let’s not add any unnecessary or redundant requirements “just to be safe” because while it may provide a false and temporary sense of added safety and security, it comes at a far greater and long term cost: Credibility.

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