Covid-19, mental health and climate change are set to be the primary employee productivity disruptors in 2022 along with an associated infodemic clouding these issues.
These were the predictions by leading business continuity firm International SOS, drawing on the findings of its Risk Outlook survey, its own data and the Workforce Resilience Council.
It forecast that absences and continuity would be escalated by long Covid and mental health issues while the infodemic would continue to exacerbate the difficulty for organisations of trying to protect people.
The frequency and impact of climate-sensitive hazards, such as infectious diseases, extreme weather events, and socioeconomic tensions resulting from the interplay of these factors coupled with Covid also presents an increasing challenge to global business.
With the increased use of vaccine mandates or restrictions on unvaccinated individuals around the world we can expect to see tensions heighten throughout 2022” – Mick Sharp, International SOS
More positive was the finding that activities disrupted by the pandemic will reach a degree of stability by 2023 as organisations become more adept at utilising health and security risk management for competitive advantage by supporting employee retention and returning to activities such as business travel.
However, the survey also identified the risk of organisations being caught off-guard by rapidly changing security environments, as civil disorder and geopolitical volatility is likely to rise above pre-pandemic levels.
To meet the predicted challenges over the coming years, organisations worldwide were set to increase investment in employee health, said the International SOS Risk Outlook.
There was wide recognition among organisations that they faced a dual challenge on the health front with more than a third of respondents (36%) expecting mental health to cause a significant decrease in productivity in 2022.
Overseas and remote working
More than 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%) said they expected risk levels to increase or stay the same in 2022.
Dr Neil Nerwich, group medical director at International SOS, said that as the pandemic entered its third year other risks were coming back to the fore. “Investing in both emotional health and physical wellness support will be essential for employee retention. 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 was expected to continue to be a huge source of disruption long into the future – a prescient forecast given the emergence late last week of a potentially devastating new variant. 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 suggested, said International SOS, that the continent first impacted by Covid-19 may still be dealing with disruption for some time to come.
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%).
Mick Sharp, group director Security Services at International SOS, said: With the increased use of vaccine mandates or restrictions on unvaccinated individuals around the world we can expect to see tensions heighten throughout 2022.”
He advised organisations to identify internal and external crisis management blind spots and act now to strengthen their resilience. To ward off the infodemic and the danger of unreliable information leading to poor decisions, firms should “keep travelling staff, as well as domestic workforces, reliably informed with objective, forward-leaning location specific health and security information,” he said.
Sharp added: “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.”