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Return to Work: How to Manage Risk Tolerance - COVID-19

Ready or not it's happening but is your team ready?

As more businesses begin to reopen, including restaurants and bars, there is a growing feeling that we are finally headed back to normal. Or a version of normal anyway. However, it is also clear that people have had very different experiences with this pandemic and will have very different responses to coming out of it. Assessing the risk tolerance of your employees, along with their comfort level in coming back to work, will be an essential part of an effective and engaging return to work strategy over this next phase.

The first and most important thing to remember is to respect individual differences and not assume one approach will fit all. Some of your team will be thrilled to get back to work as usual (with new safety measures in place). Many others will have mixed feelings about how this will work, whether it’s possible to ensure a safe work environment, how they will handle childcare and homeschooling, or simply not feel ready to come back. That is okay. As a leader, it is your responsibility to listen, understand, and respond accordingly. Think of risk tolerance like wearing a backpack, as explained by Evelin Dacker, MD from Salem, Oregon. Your backpack is filled with the questions, concerns, safety measures, and size of social circle they are comfortable with. Some people will have a relatively light backpack, which means they will be more comfortable moving quickly. Others will be carrying a pretty heavy load and will therefore move much slower. Neither one is right or wrong; but it is essential that you are able to recognize how heavy your employees’ backpacks are. The sooner you can engage your employees and understand what their risk tolerance is, along with what questions or concerns they may have, the better prepared you will be to lead them all with confidence. A simple company survey is a very effective tool to assess where your team is at in terms of risk tolerance.

Here is an outline of potential risk tolerance levels, created by Dr. Dacker :

Once you have a clear understanding of your team’s risk tolerance, you should then create a comprehensive set of company protocols to outline exactly what procedures everyone will abide by. This should include obvious things like hand washing, cleaning, social distancing, and what you will do if anyone is showing symptoms. But it should also include an expectation around respect for various risk tolerances in the company and the need for clear communication around it.

Not only will this help alleviate questions and concerns, it will also make it clear that you have heard your employees and respect where they are at. If you would like help or advice in implementing a company risk tolerance survey, or developing a company safety protocol, contact us anytime at or text 403-478-7710.


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