Risk management for facilities managers has undergone a significant transformation in recent years. What was once centered on physical concerns like injuries, security, and equipment failures now encompasses a broader range of challenges. The evolving landscape demands a more comprehensive and adaptive approach to risk management, encompassing digital, environmental, and public health considerations to mitigate risks for facilities managers and their employees.
Major crises such as natural disasters, COVID-19, and geopolitical tensions have played a significant role in changing the way facilities managers protect their workforce. Many organizations have been forced to reassess and adopt new strategies as Duty of Care plans and emergency preparedness continue to be challenged day in and day out due to the permacrisis.
Unfortunately, as we look to the new year, similar threats to business continuity are not expected to slow down. International SOS recently released its 2024 Risk Outlook Report, unveiling the top threats organizations should be aware of to ensure the health and safety of workers in the new year. As facilities managers enter the new year, implementing fluid Duty of Care plans will be imperative to navigate through unpredictable challenges as we further endure the permacrisis. The report’s predictions shed light on the following five critical areas in 2024:
As we continue to dive deep into the impact of the permacrisis, burnout is predicted to be the number one threat to business continuity and retention in 2024. Issues that were typically concerns for workers outside of the office, such as the cost of living and climate change, have found their way into the workplace. These concerns, coupled with work-related stress, will impact organizations greatly throughout the year.
Recent findings from the Risk Outlook Report indicate that 80% of senior risk professionals foresee a significant business impact of burnout in the upcoming year, yet only 41% feel adequately equipped to address this impending crisis.
Organizations must remain fluid in the new year and consider burnout as a key threat to business resilience. To alleviate this feeling of burnout, facilities managers should collaborate with HR to implement support programs, including counseling services, stress management programs, workload management, and flexible work arrangements where possible. It will also be impactful to create resilience training programs for employees to ensure they have the proper tools needed should they face these feelings of stress and burnout.
Speaking with my colleague, Julian Moro, Regional Security Director for the Americas, the risk of burnout is even more pronounced for managers and employees who are directly involved in crisis and incident management. Facilities managers play a key role in ensuring that these teams have the specific equipment and infrastructure necessary to operate in high intensity over protracted hours each day/night, and for sustained periods. This can include the ability to stand up a dedicated crisis management room with sufficient technology and communications, rapidly, and arrangements for key members to be able to take short periods of rest, including potentially sleeping for short periods on site.
The climate crisis is expected to pose unique challenges for organizations in the new year, with one in four organizations reporting operational impacts due to climate change thus far. While climate change is likely to cause extreme weather events, raise climate anxiety, and increase health risks, only 50% of Risk Outlook respondents say they have incorporated climate change into their health and security plans.
To mitigate risks posed by climate change, facilities managers and their organizations must ensure their facility’s infrastructure can withstand potential extreme weather. In addition, it will be increasingly important to have an emergency preparedness plan inclusive of emergency responses to a plethora of scenarios. Lastly, facilities managers need to educate employees on all climate change risks beyond extreme weather. These risks include health risks such as illness caused by extreme heat, the spread of infectious diseases, and strains on mental well-being. Health risks coupled with extreme weather events can cause food insecurity and systemic unemployment.
In a world with a constantly evolving security landscape, geopolitical tensions emerge as the second-highest security concern, with three out of four Risk Outlook respondents noting that it will have an impact on their organization.
As the successive impacts of geopolitical tensions, civil unrest, and political instability unfolded, employees displayed resilience, especially those involved in organizational emergency response. However, the current challenge lies in the emergence of crisis fatigue. Individuals who previously relied on a mix of adrenaline and dedication to colleagues and employers are now experiencing depleted energy levels.
Organizations must adopt robust security measures to navigate the challenges arising from the dynamic global geopolitical landscape while also alleviating the crisis fatigue employees are experiencing. These measures include working with security personnel to enhance security measures and create a crisis communication plan. By evolving and adopting new security measures, facilities managers and security personnel empower employees to navigate uncertainties with confidence.
The use of AI in the workplace has become more common, and although it has the potential to boost technological advancements, it comes with a unique set of challenges. Many organizations are concerned that AI will contribute to the rise of misinformation. Around 50% of Risk Outlook respondents reported that they have already been exposed to misinformation regarding health and security in the workplace.
Facilities managers must educate employees on the proper use of AI to minimize the risk of misinformation. In addition, cybersecurity protocols should be implemented to ensure security risks caused by AI can be mitigated effectively. By having proper protocols and procedures in place for AI use, facilities managers can help set employees up for success and negate potential risks before they arise.
Increase Duty of Care Expectations
With an increase in factors affecting well-being in the workplace, employees are expecting more from their employers. Three-quarters of organizations report increased employee expectations for Duty of Care in 2024.
As burnout, stress, and anxiety levels in the workplace rise, employees are looking for more than basic occupational health services. Facilities managers and their organizations must ensure employees’ well-being is at the forefront to maintain workplace resilience and employee retention. It is important to have comprehensive Duty of Care plans in place that clearly outline the physical and mental health care they will provide for employees. Beyond employees, these Duty of Care plans should also consider guests and contractors of the organization, and should also factor in care for family members of impacted employees during a crisis.
As facilities managers continue to navigate the permacrisis, they must remain prepared for a world of diverse challenges as we head into the new year. Expecting the unexpected will help to adjust plans and put employees’ health and safety first. To read the full 2024 Risk Outlook report, click here.
Dr. Mark Fischer is regional medical director at International SOS, a global health and security risk services company.