Global perma-crisis set to drastically impact employee wellbeing in 2024

80% predict burnout will have a significant effect on businesses

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Somshankar Bandyopadhyay

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Published: Thu 14 Dec 2023, 6:52 PM

The global perma-crisis is set to continue to take its toll in 2024, as extreme weather events continue to impact organisations and global instability deepens.

This situation is giving rise to concerning levels of employee burnout. According to the latest International SOS Risk Outlook Report 2024, 80 per cent of surveyed global senior risk professionals predict burnout will have a significant impact on businesses in the next year . But only 41 per cent of them feel that their organisations are equipped to deal with it.

It also provides a detailed view of some of the major risks which organisations must address in 2024 including the climate crisis, the power of AI, the evolution of employees’ expectations and worldwide unrest.

Sally Llewellyn, Global Security Director, International SOS, said: “Organisations will have many risks to address in 2024, as instability continues to be a key theme of the global security environment. The near-continuous pace of crises makes it even more challenging for organisations to navigate. Crisis management teams have been running consistently since Covid, creating a real risk of burnout in this critical function.

“Being proactive regarding risk management will be key as many surveyed expect the risks companies are facing to increase in 2024. Partnering with other organisations or experts can help organisations understand which risks – and their second or third order impacts – they are most likely to face based on geographic reach, industry or travel patterns. Forewarning enables organisations to proactively plan for or mitigate likely risks. Building resilience within crisis management functions is also important. Expanding pools of leaders able to step in during crises and empowering them through sound training is critical to ensuring perma-crisis does not derail wider business operations.”

The top five predictions

Running on empty: In recent years, as the disruptions caused by the Covid pandemic began to subside, the emergence of the Ukraine/Russia conflict unleashed new waves of supply chain and service disruptions across various industries. With these ongoing stressors accumulating without respite, the risk of employee burnout is becoming increasingly tangible. The report’s findings noted that organisations have experienced a noticeable surge in stress-related absences. Surveyed respondents emphasise that the perceived risk level for the next 12 months is the highest ever recorded – 65 per cent believe that global risks will continue to grow in 2024 – compounding their crisis management fatigue beyond pre-pandemic levels.

Climate change comes home: Over the last 2,000 years, global temperatures have increased faster in the last half century than any other similar period, highlighting how relevant climate risk is now for businesses across the world . One in four organisations reported that they have already seen their operations affected by events attributed to climate change, and this year the second biggest category out of the thousands of alerts issued by International SOS in 2023 was extreme weather events.

This comes as only half of respondents say they have factored climate change into their health and security plans, emphasising how vulnerable many organisations could be. This issue is certainly not going away, as approximately three-quarters of businesses report extreme weather as a challenge to their employees and operations in the coming year.

Additionally, as the global weather and climate profile changes in many regions, so does the health risk environment. Dr Irene Lai, global medical director, International SOS, said: “Many of the extreme weather events we witnessed in 2023 may become commonplace in the year ahead potentially driving climate anxiety amongst a growing number of employees. Extreme heat in Europe, for example, could become a regular occurrence with potentially more named heatwaves, following the first – Cerberus – this year.

“With rising temperatures comes the increased possibility of disease spread, as the conditions are opportune for mosquito-borne diseases. We have already seen this in some regions, with the appearance of locally transmitted malaria in several US states after two decades. The changing transmission pattern of malaria in the African highlands and the trends in vector-borne diseases in Europe pose some significant new challenges for public health officials. Therefore, it is crucial for organisations to have plans in place to address the potential rise in novel medical risks.”

Global instability deepens: The second-highest security concern identified by respondents in this year’s survey revolves around geopolitical tensions. Three out of four respondents expressed the belief that their organisations will face significant impacts in the coming year. Notably, the ongoing crisis in Israel and Gaza, as well as the persistent conflict in Ukraine, contribute to this unstable global environment. Civil and social unrest, coupled with political instability, rank as the next largest worries for organisations. The unpredictable nature of these events highlights the need for businesses to adopt robust security measures, proactively navigating the challenges arising from the dynamic global geopolitical landscape.

AI – risks and opportunities: AI has inspiring potential to create a new industrial revolution. However, for now, it further complicates the vital task of sorting reliable information from misinformation and deliberate disinformation for businesses. More than two out of five respondents of the Risk Outlook research said they were worried about the effect of medical misinformation and disinformation on their workforces. This rises to three in five when asked about inaccurate political information – a potentially difficult situation as the United States heads into a highly consequential election year.

The new employment contract: Three-quarters of surveyed organisations report increased employee expectations for Duty of Care. A similar number are now also shouldering duties previously seen as government responsibilities, including two-thirds who acknowledge extending responsibilities to support workers’ families in times of need. This underlines how the era of offering only basic occupational health services for work-related conditions is over. While still essential, occupational health provisions must be enhanced with diverse support and interventions to safeguard and nurture employees globally.


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