Millions of people will travel all over the world for business throughout 2020, and it’s not without its risks. International SOS recently released its annual Travel Risk Outlook, unveiling the top threats business travelers will face this year. Today, we’ll look at the leading three predicted risks and the critical role that prevention plays in protecting employees against these threats as it relates to Duty of Care.

As businesses continue to grow on a global scale and global growth becomes more and more accessible, strengthening resilience ensures protection of human capital. Travel risk resilience can be broken out into three fundamental principles: prevention, protection and productivity. When a business takes all three factors into consideration while creating its Duty of Care program, it builds a strong foundation for both the employer and its employees.

The top three business travel risks of 2020 include geopolitical shifts and civil unrest, mental health issues and physical health issues. Of the findings from the 2020 Travel Risk Outlook, International SOS determined one unifying trend throughout all its predictions: instability. When a business adopts a robust preventative program, it creates an added layer of predictability in an unpredictable world. Because the nature of travel risk is ever-changing, exploring ways to be preventative and proactive are critical when creating an effective program.


Geopolitical Shifts and Civil Unrest

The leading risks for business travelers this year are the risks borne from geopolitical shifts. More than half of the organizations surveyed for Internationals SOS’ Travel Risk Outlook report believed that these threats will be the top reasons for modified travel in 2020. These risks include acts of terrorism, social unrest, urban violence and extremist behavior that are caused by issues like increasing income disparity, elections and associated instability, trade wars and country relations.

While the sudden nature of these events are at times unpredictable, International SOS found that lack of awareness around political trends and the cycle of events around elections are at an all-time high, ultimately leaving business travelers at major risk. Implementing preventative measures in order to mitigate risks derived from political events is pivotal to protecting a mobile workforce. These preventative measures should include:

  • Understanding which events are likely to impact business the most.
    • The level of impact should be measured prior to booking employee travel and should be based on concerns such as industry and geographic exposure, as well as the risk the event poses to the business and its travelers.
  • Access to timely and insightful intelligence that can be tailored to the company’s profile and needs.
  • Always available tools for managers and employees that help them understand the events, plan for their impact and how to respond to them if or when they materialize.


Mental Health Issues

Although we’ve seen an increase in awareness around the detrimental impact of poor mental health in the workplace and when traveling for business, only 15 percent of today’s organizations have mental health considerations in their travel policies. Businesses are increasingly expected to develop policies and procedures that mitigate against mental health risk for both ethical, and in some countries, legal reasons. If not addressed, it opens the door to erosion of employee productivity and business continuity.

Mental health should be viewed as an integral part of occupational health and safety and treated with equal importance as physical health. As organizations begin to tackle the mental wellness epidemic, they’ll find that there are preventative ways to address this foreseeable risk in the workplace and while traveling for business. C-suite executives can support their employees by decreasing the stigma around mental health and addressing the risk at hand, including:

  • Identifying policies, practices and cultural behaviors that do and do not exist within the organization.
  • Moving away from “managing stress” and focusing on building a resilient culture of health.
  • Teach managers to assess and control stressors, as well as implement comprehensive employee assistance and well-being programs.
    • Consider the different needs for those who are regularly traveling for business, the traditional “road warrior” and those who take assignments when creating programs.


Physical Health Issues

Physical health issues are predicted to rise in 2020, particularly epidemics due to climate change. Businesses must constantly review programs to ensure they understand all physical health risks ranging from accidents and injuries, to diseases and chronic conditions, in order to create a program that keeps employees safe and is effective. When addressing potential physical health risks while traveling for business, organizations must also consider risks exacerbated or caused by travel, including but not limited to lack of exercise, sleep deprivation, circulatory issues and cardiovascular disease.

Employees and travelers alike should be provided with guidance and support in advance of business travel in order to best prepare for on-going and evolving health-related challenges. Key points to consider include:

  • Educating travelers on local risks while also delivering additional support and resources for those traveling to high-risk destinations.
  • Offering services and support that encourage employees with chronic or active medical conditions to seek medical guidance before business travel.
    • Employees on long-term assignments to higher-risk locations should be required to take a formal medical review prior to departure.
  • Ensuring those traveling to areas with endemic diseases receive the appropriate vaccinations and medications prior to their trip.

Today, organizations do not have the luxury to ignore Duty of Care responsibilities, regardless of their size, as doing so has the potential to not only influence, but define, the survival of business. With the appropriate travel risk management strategy, companies can open the door to a stronger workforce and overall business growth potential.