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Security threats and geopolitical instability top disrupters to mobile workforce

Mental health issues are also expected to become more important in 2020

Heightened security threats, civil unrest and geopolitical instability are expected to be top disruptors to the mobile workforce in 2020.

The International SOS Risks Forecast for 2020, led by the new Travel Risk Management Council, cites the top 10 health and security risks that organisations should be prioritising next year.

Risks borne from geopolitical shifts will be the most important mobility challenge for businesses, however mental health issues will increase in importance and organisations will be more proactive in safeguarding physical health.

Cyber-crime is likely to grow and be an increasing risk to security, while climate change will exacerbate the occurrence of environmental disruptions.

With millennials and Generation Z entering the workplace with different preferences, expectations and attitudes to risk, this will continue to challenge businesses to evolve their risk strategies, the report said.

High profile Duty of Care legal cases will increase

The report’s accompanying Business Resilience Trend Watch survey of over 1,300 business travel decision-makers reveals 51% believe that health and security risks increased in the past year and 47% anticipate risks will rise in the coming year.

This risks include security threats (68%), civil unrest (52%), geopolitical unrest (52%) and natural disasters (51%). 

Along with these top disruptors, organisations are predicting major increases in the likelihood of having to modify traveller itineraries due to epidemics (31%), infectious diseases (35%) and detention and kidnapping (29%). 

Doug Quarry, managing director of International SOS, said the threats facing organisations and their workforces are impacting established and emerging economies alike.

“With over $1.7trn expected to be invested by organisations by 2022, without taking into account human capital and productivity impacts of travel disruption, it’s important that organisations get ahead of whatever potential disruption they can,” he added. “With accurate information, tools and support in place, organisations should, and can, plan for the anticipated risks and safeguard their investment and their people.”

The report reveals emerging traveller habits, both domestically and internationally, and diversification of the workforce are creating “grey zones of risk”. It said employers are not aligning travel policies with new potential risk factors and people are choosing not to act within policy if it restricts the use of their preferred mode of transport or accommodation.

Less than a third of organisations include cyber security in their travel policies, which could potentially open organisations up to litigation and reputation damage if they are not adhering to their duty of care, as well as negative consequences for employees and business, the report said.

The survey found mental health issues are included in just 15% of travel policies, while considerations for travellers with disabilities are covered by only 12%.