International SOS recently released its Risk Outlook report, unveiling the top security risks for the international workforce in 2021. Here, we talk to Jeremy Prout, Director of Security at International SOS, to discuss how to protect the workforce against the top risks found within the report. 


Security magazine: What is your background, and current role and responsibilities?

Prout: Prior to joining International SOS, I served as a Captain in the US Marine Corps for almost seven years. During my time in the Marine Corps, I managed the Afghan National Security Force’s regional intelligence cycle, information collection, collation, analysis and assessments, as well as led the Protective Intelligence projects and served as a counterterrorism and threat assessment instructor. After leaving the Marine Corps, I joined a well-known organization for which I served as a Managing Consultant for Security and Risk Management, and was responsible for implementing federal security standards, conducting threat vulnerability assessments, and managed emergency planning for a variety of corporations and clients.

Today, I serve as the Director of Security Solutions for International SOS, one of the world’s leading health and security services companies, and am responsible for providing security advice & assistance for clients in the Americas Region.


Security magazine: How can employers prepare to mitigate or protect their workforces against the top five predictions for 2021, as outlined in International SOS’s Risk Outlook 2021?


  1. Ecopolitical turbulence will exacerbate tensions, civil unrest and crime
    1. The economic, political and social effects of the pandemic have caused rising levels of tension from a national and international perspective, leading to further division, social unrest, and anti-government sentiment. This uptick in tension has led to increased civil unrest and crime, posing a security threat to people and businesses.
      1. Preparation is the best practice against all threats to an organization and its employees. To address ecopolitical turbulence prior to threats actually occurring, business leaders should outline the types of domestic and international risks that have the most potential to harm the business and its employees. From there, prioritize these situations and create actionable plans to mitigate them. This will be crucial when a situation arises as it will allow organizations to respond in a timely way. 
  2. Pandemic borne crisis management teams will redefine duty of care practices
    1. Employee health and safety is now a top business issue. In the past, addressing issues such as mental health within the workplace, may have been lower on the list of priorities, however, duty of care for employees has been brought to the forefront amid the pandemic and rightfully so.  In the future, health and safety of employees will only be emphasized. There will be an expectation of increased preventative measures as well as long term health monitoring from employees.
      1. The aspect of expanding employee health and safety will continue beyond the pandemic. So organizations should prepare fluid in-office and mobile protection plans for employees. This, alongside investing and delivering resources for crisis management teams and employees will be crucial to making sure the appropriate resources are offered to those in need.
  3. The growing infodemic will increase demand for trusted sources of health & security information and advice
    1. It’s estimated that the amount of academic information published on COVID-19 in the last nine months is about 50% of that published on HIV-AIDS in the last 39 years - creating an “infodemic”. This plethora of information from various sources is often conflicting and contradictory, causing trust in public information to erode. Because of this, employees will be looking to their organizations to help bridge the gap and cut through the “noise” to provide clear information, making organizations responsible for sharing factual company communications about the current state of the issue at hand, information on how this affects employees and their safety, as well as next steps or guidance on how to move forward.
      1. Investing in resources that offer unbiased, relevant and accurate information will assist decision makers in making timely, responsible and actionable decisions to ensure the health and safety of their employees, as well as create trust.
  4. Mental health issues will be a primary productivity disruptor
    1. The pandemic has led to escalated mental health issues for people everywhere, with escalated levels of stress, anxiety and depression which can be a huge disruptor when it comes to productivity and work-life balance.
      1. Business leaders should prepare for these issues to arise, and to be empathetic and understanding when they do. I recommend having established systems in place to help employees when they need mental health assistance, such as additional days off, access to mental health resources such as counselors, and more.
  5. Singular focus on Covid-19 will create risk blind spots
    1. With many organizations focusing their efforts on combating the Covid-19 pandemic, other issues have fallen in priority, creating blind risk spots primarily in: the physical, psychological and security implications of working-from-home; underlying health issues going unaddressed; and environmental issues such as extreme weather events, natural disasters and climatic changes.
      1. Employers must now, if they haven’t already, implement plans and systems to address these issues to meet the new physical, mental and security demands that have arisen amid the pandemic.


Security magazine: Just as 9/11 changed the way that employers saw their Duty of Care with respect to security issues, how will the pandemic change Duty of Care this time around, especially in regards to the way an employer approaches employee’s health threats?

Prout: The Covid-19 pandemic has changed duty of care as we know it, bringing a laser-focus to the fact that employees are an organization's biggest asset, and bringing up the need to have more systems in place should another unexpected event arise.

While many businesses were unprepared for this pandemic, they have now implemented reactive systems to address the health threats to their employees. To prepare for future threats, businesses should take a holistic look at their Covid-19 response and it’s direct effects on employees and business continuity, and build their proactive plan from there, based on the failures and successes of the current response.

I would recommend having a specific disaster response team who is specially trained to implement practices and share information such as company communication when an issue arises, shutting down and securing the office, making sure employees have a safe place to reside if needed, and more.


Security magazine: The pandemic triggered Board level decision-making on health issues, the increasing need for real-time expert medical guidance, and organizational responsibility for employee wellbeing including those working from home. Similarly, will the C-Suite see expanded responsibilities to account for the health and safety of employees?

Prout: In wake of COVID-19, C-suites and other business leaders have had to rapidly evolve their practices to cope and evolve with the pandemic and the various wave effects it has created, and I expect that businesses will continue to focus on evolving their practices to account for the health and safety of their teams. While the exact new responsibilities for each leadership team will change based on the size and type of organization, C-suite should already be focusing more on employee wellbeing from two aspects:

Mental Health
Many people across the world struggle daily with mental health issues, and the COVID-19 pandemic has increased these numbers, with many people feeling isolated, stressed, anxious and depressed. I urge you to implement a mental health strategy which should include resources for those who are struggling, such as expanded telehealth services for employees, access to in-office resources, resources for mobile employees, etc. In addition, if the structure and size of your organization allows it, I would recommend having a specific leadership role that focuses on employee mental health.

Physical Health
While many organizations are still working remotely, not all businesses and roles can function to their full degree at home and have begun to return to the office to some degree. With the infection numbers of the pandemic still high, it’s imperative that organizational leaders continue to prioritize mitigation measures such as keeping the business space disinfected, requiring employees to wear masks, practice social distancing and more. C-suites should also create plans and systems for if/when an employee does get sick, including having safe locations for employees to quarantine should they have become infected at work and need to separate from their families, access to additional PPE, and more. Physical health also extends beyond in-office, as we have predicted that physical health will be challenged further in the wake of the pandemic, as well.


Security magazine: Will perceptions of traditional health responsibility need to be aligned to global best practices? Will this cause the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) and other best practices/frameworks to come into greater focus?

Prout: The public health crisis, that has so significantly impacted the globe, will force leaders and institutions to take a very hard look at health practices, especially what are the responsibleness of institutions to provide this. We are already seeing this around vaccination programs and testing. The concept of Duty of Care will grow in importance and become an even greater norm than it is now. The same can be said of considerations around SDGs, global health and climate.