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Employee Health, Civil Unrest Top 2022 Risk Challenges

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Companies around the world will face an increasingly complex risk landscape, with employee health and civil unrest highlighted as some of the top challenges for the year ahead, according to outlook reports by two risk management providers.

The International SOS Risk Outlook 2022 report includes data from a survey of nearly 1,000 risk professionals across 75 countries, as well as insight from the Workforce Resilience Council and International SOS proprietary data. It indicates that more than half (56 percent) of organizations plan to increase spending on both mental and physical health support for employees.

That trend comes as 36 percent of respondents expect mental health to cause a significant decrease in productivity in 2022 as organizations face the dual challenge of the physical aspects of Covid-19 safety and a global mental health crisis made worse by the pandemic.

As organizations begin planning their return to travel, 69 percent of decision makers responsible for business travel expect risk levels to increase or stay the same next year.

Covid-19 will continue to pose a significant operational challenge in 2022, according to International SOS, with 36 percent of respondents in Western Europe and the Americas saying the need to define testing and vaccine policies was an issue compared to the global average of 25 percent.

Meanwhile, as concern over climate change grows, 21 percent of those polled saying natural disasters such as extreme weather could pose disruptions next year. This was closely followed by transport concerns (19 percent)—for local, domestic and international travel—and security threats and civil unrest (16 percent).

Dr. Neil Nerwich, group medical director at International SOS, in a statement said: “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.”

Mick Sharp, the company’s group director of security services, in a statement added: “In 2022 organizations 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 actually grown. Tensions around pandemic lockdowns, vaccine rollouts and perceived infringements on civil liberties have fueled civil unrest and violence in some locations. With the increased use of vaccine mandates or restrictions on unvaccinated individuals around the world, we can expect to see tensions heighten throughout 2022.

“Aside from the Covid-19 related triggers, natural disasters, geopolitics, domestic conflict and crime will continue to impact organizations globally. 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.”

Adding Fuel to the Fire

Meanwhile, independent health, travel and security-related risk management solutions provider Healix also highlighted civil unrest as one of the top five challenges facing businesses in its annual Risk Outlook report.

The company said anger at government responses to the pandemic has “added fuel to the fire” during unrest in Tunisia, Colombia, Lebanon and South Africa. In addition, as international travel returns, the global economic recovery has begun but Healix said the gap is widening between advanced and developing economies, owing primarily to vaccine inequality and a lack of financial support.

Other risks predicted by Healix to be top concerns for 2022 include supply chain constraints, the rise of ransomware caused by the growing trend of remote working, climate change, and the continued threat of a new influenza epidemic.

Chris Job, director of risk management services at Healix, in a statement said: “This year, there has been an increase in global travel, particularly for businesses, as face-to-face interactions become preferable following months of virtual meetings. This increase will see familiar risks and challenges re-emerge for organizations in terms of ensuring the health, safety and security of their people and assets, which for the last 18 months have slipped down the agenda.

“As we continue the return to normal, businesses will need to provide more reassurance to their employees and instill confidence that they have the necessary plans and resilience programs in place to protect their people, assets and operations.”

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