Organisations worldwide are set to increase investment in employee health. That is 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. Within Asia, close to half (44%) 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 in Asia (35%) expect mental health to cause a significant decrease in employee productivity in 2022.
The need for increased investment comes as organisations expect to face increased risks in 2022. Almost two thirds (59%) of organisations in Asia anticipate risks to increase or stay the same next year. In particular, decision makers responsible for business travel (63%) and international assignees (65%) 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 Low Kiang Wei, Medical Director at International SOS comments, “In 2022 we are facing a layered threat environment. Entering the third year of the pandemic, while COVID-19 and the fallout from lockdowns continue to be major disruptors, other risks are coming back to the fore as travel resumes. With many experts predicting 2022 will be the year of the ‘great resignation’ organisations must act to ensure they provide the necessary support for employees. 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. With many governments and healthcare systems under increased strain, proactive organisations can lead the way. Those that can best help employees navigate changing working environments, will be rewarded with increased employee resilience, loyalty and productivity.”
COVID-19 continues to disrupt, as organisations struggle to respond
For many organisations COVID-19 will continue to be a significant operational challenge. In Asia, close to half (47%) of respondents said that having adequate resources to deal with the virus was a top challenge for 2022. Surprisingly, this is significantly higher than the global average of 33%, suggesting that Asian-based organisations and their workforce still require further efforts to cope with the disruptions and build a more resilient workforce.
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 the Asian respondents of 16%.
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 global 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%).
Aditya Luthra, Security Director, Asia Pacific, International SOS, said, “In 2022 organisations must be aware that perennial security concerns such as crime, civil unrest, terrorism or other geopolitical issues have not gone away due to the pandemic. In many cases the risks from these concerns have grown. Tensions around pandemic lockdowns, vaccine rollouts, and perceived infringements on civil liberties have fuelled civil unrest and violence in some locations. For example, the ongoing security situation in Myanmar poses further complexities to a volatile geopolitical landscape, while the risk of natural disasters in countries such as Indonesia and Philippines remain. These risks are likely to impact regional mobility, and organisations will be challenged to navigate these complex landscapes with multiple disruptions. This impact will further increase in 2022 with a growing return to travel and an increased focus on the Duty of Care requirements of an in-country workforce.
In response, organisations must identify internal and external crisis management blind spots and act now to make effective decisions and strengthen their resilience. Both travelling and in-country staff should be kept informed with objective, forward-looking location specific health and security information. As the travel landscape evolves, organisations should arm their entire workforce with resources to safeguard their health and safety.”
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