Companies that ensure health and wellness of their employees protect business continuity

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Photo shows in the recent planning conducted by THEPHILBIZNEWS how rest and recreation being practiced by many companies become a way that promotes mental and physical health of everyone in the company (Photo from THEPHILBIZNEWS/MAS)

By Alithea De Jesus
Infographics from International SOS Group

The old adage, Health is wealth is not only relevant now in the time of the pandemic, but even before. That is the reason why many companies provide added benefits for their employees beyond the health insurance plan and coverage from the HMO.

In many multinational companies, if their own facilities could not build an in-house gym, they provided gym membership to their employees as part of their benefits. Work hard, play hard. Other companies allocate space for their employees R&R, rest and recreation in order to ensure that their employees are living a well-balanced life. These value-added facilities are wise investments. They made everyone in the company not just productive, but also feel that the sense of belongingness and security as employees.

Intereestingly, organizations 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 organizations 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 organizations intend to increase spending on both.

Organizations 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 organizations expect to face increased risks in 2022. Over two thirds (68%) of organizations 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.

International SOS’ global survey revealed that the top five expected causes of decreased employee productivity in 2022 are COVID-19, mental health issues, natural disasters including extreme weather, transport concerns, and security threats and civil unrest.

Dr. Neil Nerwich, Group Medical Director of International SOS explained, “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’ organizations 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 organizations can lead the way. Those that can best help employees navigate changing working environments, will be rewarded with increased employee resilience, loyalty and productivity,” he added.

COVID-19 continues to disrupt, as organizations struggle to respond

For many organizations 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 organizations 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. Organizations will need to draw on the 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 list 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 at 19% and security threats and civil unrest at16%.

Mick Sharp, Group Director Security Services at International SOS said, “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 fuelled 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, geo-politics, 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,” said Sharp.

In response, organizations 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,” he added.


Five predictions for 2022    

Drawing on the findings of the Risk Outlook survey, the Workforce Resilience Council and the organization’s proprietary data, International SOS’ released its top five predictions for next year. These include the impact of COVID-19, Long COVID, & mental health as the primary employee productivity disruptors in 2022 which will escalate absenteeism and continuity issues.

This is followed by the effect of the infodemic as it continues to exacerbate the complex nature of protecting people, while Duty of Care obligations are reshaped by new health & safety measures, employee expectations, & regulatory compliance.

International SOS’ also predicted that pandemic-disrupted activities will reach a degree of stability by 2023 as organizations utilize health & security risk management as a competitive advantage to support employee retention, and willingness to return to activities including business travel.

The leading global health and security risk management group also said that organizations risk being caught off-guard by rapidly changing security environments, as civil disorder and geopolitical volatility will rise above pre-pandemic levels

International SOS also stated that climate change will increase the frequency and impact of climate-sensitive hazards, such as infectious diseases, extreme weather events, and socioeconomic tensions.  

The annual risk outlook study conducted by International SOS exposes the gaps in the protection of employee health and security such as risk perception, mental health, productivity impacts and operational challenges. The survey is complemented with interpretations and predictions from the Workforce Resilience Council, as well as extensive proprietary data and analysis from International SOS. The Workforce Resilience Council is made up of representative experts of all health, security, and safety fields. The participants in this year’s Council are from a mix of think tanks, associations, advisory boards, NGOs, and IGOs, relevant to the risks of working at home or abroad.