Organisations worldwide are set to increase investment in employee health. That’s the findings of the International SOS Risk Outlook 2022. The report and updated global risk maps also signal that organisations are grappling with an increasingly complex risk landscape.
The survey of nearly 1,000 risk professionals across 75 countries, coupled with insight from the Workforce Resilience Council and International SOS proprietary data, indicates that both mental and physical health support will see increased investment. In fact, over half (56%) of organisations intend to increase spending on both.
Organisations are facing a dual challenge on the health front. Along with the physical aspects of COVID-19 safety, the pandemic has significantly contributed to a mental health crisis. Over a third of respondents (36%) expect mental health to cause a significant decrease in productivity in 2022.
The need for increased investment comes as organisations expect to face increased risks in 2022. Over two thirds (68%) of organisations anticipate risks to increase or stay the same next year. In particular, decision makers responsible for business travel (69%) and international assignees (67%) expect risk levels to increase or stay the same in 2022.
Top Five Expected Causes Of Employee Productivy Decreases In 2022
- Mental health issues
- Natural disasters including extreme weather
- Transport concerns
- Security threats and civil unrest
Dr Vikram Vora, Medical Director at International SOS, India, “In 2022 we are facing a layered threat environment. As the global pandemic continues with variant-driven waves, India is by no means in a safe zone. The rapid overwhelming of the healthcare infrastructure during the second wave of COVID-19 in India, highlights the need for organisations to take a proactive approach to initiate steps that secure employees and dependents.
The threat to employee health and safety goes beyond COVID-19 with mental health being a clear and present concern in 2022. Organisations who prepare for current and emerging health & wellness challenges are the ones that will build and maintain a resilient workforce and continue to be sustainable. Investing in both emotional health and physical wellness support will be essential for employee retention. This will also help to avoid a vicious cycle of productivity issues.”
COVID-19 continues to disrupt, as organisations struggle to respond
For many organisations COVID-19 will continue to be a significant operational challenge. A third (33%) of respondents said that having adequate resources to deal with the virus was a top challenge for 2022. Surprisingly, this increased to nearly half (47%) of organisations based in Asia. This suggests that the continent first impacted by COVID-19 may still be dealing with disruption for some time to come.
Meanwhile, respondents from Western Europe and the Americas were more likely to be challenged by COVID-19 policies and more specifically, the need to define testing and vaccine policies for COVID-19. 36% of respondents in Western Europe and the Americas cited this as an issue compared to a global average of 25%.
To respond to these challenges the management of the ongoing significant impact of COVID-19 needs to be carefully considered. Organisations will need to draw on expertise of business leaders as well as functions such as HR and risk management.
Perennial security concerns a continued risk
While the pandemic tops the lists of concerns, other perennial security risks are expected to cause disruption in 2022.
With concern growing over climate change, 21% of respondents predicted that natural disasters including extreme weather would be disruptive in 2022. This was closely followed by transport concerns – for local, domestic and international travel – (19%) and security threats and civil unrest (16%).
According to Udit Mehta, Executive Vice President for International SOS and a security subject matter expert “Increasing socio-economic imbalances driven by the pandemic are likely to reverberate in amplified ramifications for risks of all nature in 2022 – ranging from conventional to cyber-crime, issues driven by geo-political nuances including civil and social unrest as well as terrorism. Further COVID spikes and concerns around the emergence of new variants are likely to exacerbate insular tendencies that could drive further global geo-political divisions and complicate an already complex regulatory environment as well as social sentiment on the perceived restriction on civil liberties. Additionally, Climate Change is likely to continually yield a heightened focus on Natural Disasters as an area of concern for private corporations and governments alike.
Organisations will need to institute innovations focused on the sanctity of information – sourcing and dissemination as the persisting fluid environment creates and incumbent need for consistent flow of credible intelligence, assessment, and advisories. This in addition to a constant evolution of crisis management and mitigation controls would be key to navigating the complexities that are likely to ensue in the coming year.”
Way forward for organisations:
In response, organisations must identify internal and external crisis management blind spots and act now to make effective decisions and strengthen their resilience. They must keep travelling staff, as well as domestic workforces, reliably informed with objective, forward-leaning location specific health and security information. Staying on top of regulatory changes will also be critical, making sure that they have the right processes in place to fulfil Duty of Care obligations.
THE INTERNATIONAL SOS VIEW
Five predictions for 2022
Drawing on the findings of the Risk Outlook survey, the Workforce Resilience Council and the organisation’s proprietary data, International SOS’ top five predictions for next year are:
- COVID-19, Long COVID, & mental health will be primary employee productivity disruptors in 2022: escalating absenteeism and continuity issues
- The infodemic will continue to exacerbate the complex nature of protecting people, while Duty of Care obligations are reshaped by new health & safety measures, employee expectations, & regulatory compliance
- Pandemic-disrupted activities will reach a degree of stability by 2023, as organisations utilise health & security risk management as a competitive advantage: supporting employee retention, and willingness to return to activities incl. business travel
- Organisations risk being caught off-guard by rapidly changing security environments, as civil disorder and geopolitical volatility will rise above pre-pandemic levels
- Climate change will increase the frequency and impact of climate-sensitive hazards, such as infectious diseases, extreme weather events, and socioeconomic tensions
Risk Outlook 2022 will be presented at global webinars between 7-9th December. To register, click here.