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Employee illness is biggest business disruption

11 March 2020

POOR EMPLOYEE health has become the most frequent cause of disruption to businesses globally, overtaking IT and telecom outages for the first time since 2014. This is according to the latest global survey of 665 businesses by the BCI and BSI (British Standards Institution) in their ninth annual Horizon Scan Report.

The report asks businesses about the disruptions they have experienced over the past 12 months and the risks they are preparing for in the year ahead.

A third (33.5%) of businesses reported facing disruption from health incidents, which includes physical illness caused by working conditions as well as mental illness and stress. The frequency of incidents coupled with the significant detrimental impact this type of incident has on organizations, earned a risk score which unseated IT and Telecom Outages for the first time in six years as the leading cause of business disruption. This should cause growing concern around the threats to employee wellbeing and the importance of employee health in ensuring an organization continues to thrive.

Notably, when asked to assess the risks they face over the next 12 months, businesses are failing to recognise the potential impact of health incidents to their business. They rank the threat as their 15th most important, and remain most concerned about cyber-attacks, data breaches and IT outages.

Rachael Elliott, head of thought leadership at the BCI, commented, “Once again, the major takeaway from this year’s report is the disconnect between the disruptions organisations have encountered versus those which they are concerned about. Despite the growing impact that employee health has on business, organizations simply aren’t facing up to the threat it poses.”

Other significant findings in this years’ report include the growing impact of climate change on business continuity. Organizations reported that the average cost of dealing with a natural disaster or extreme weather event is now at over €1 million per incident.

The research, conducted in the last two months of 2019 before the COVID-19 outbreak, placed ‘non-occupational disease’ at the bottom (21 out of 22) of the threats businesses were preparing for in the next 12 months. The recent spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) highlights the importance of preparing for the unexpected.

Rachael Elliott continued, “The Coronavirus outbreak is the kind of event that is both predictable and extremely disruptive – but its infrequency means it is considered unlikely to occur and so is often overlooked until its effects are all too apparent. This reality shows the importance and great value of taking time to scan the horizon and prepare for the unexpected.”

This year’s report shows a trend towards the increased adoption of international standards, such as ISO 22301 Security and Resilience. Business Continuity Management Systems. Requirements. The data provides evidence to suggest that organizations certified to the standard generally experience fewer incidents than those that are not certified.

Howard Kerr, chief executive, BSI, commented, As the pressures on businesses grow, and incidents like the ongoing Coronavirus outbreak continues to capture headlines, it is important that organizations do not lose focus on the ‘business as usual’ risks. Small but frequent issues, such as the issues with employee health and wellbeing, can add up to cause significant disruption and a threat to organisational resilience. It is encouraging to see the role that international standards are playing in helping organisations to anticipate risks, prepare for them, and ultimately adapt to change.”