Digital and human labor and its impact on the global workforce

The Rise of the Humans series is a very welcome addition to our thinking on the changing world of work. It offers many useful insights on the opportunities and challenges tomorrow’s business leaders face. How will we adjust the shape and size of our workforce to make the most of new technologies? How do we best prepare workers for the future? How can we benefit from the opportunities, while safeguarding the wellbeing of employees?

We are already witnessing many of the changes identified by the Rise of the Humans. Technology is having an impact on all businesses. With AI we are only at the start of the journey, but the advantages are clear. To take just one example, in healthcare, AI solutions are being developed to automate image analysis and diagnosis, and to provide basic advice direct to patients. AI has particular potential in remote locations where medical services are limited. Similar advantages are emerging across all industries.

The opportunities are evident, but there are many challenges too. As Rise of the Humans emphasizes, we all need to be agile and adapt our business thinking to be ready for them. Many of these challenges arise in the wider world. We are witnessing an increase in geopolitical events and instability as well as natural and man-made disasters. These risks are occurring even in places once thought of as safe.

Those who travel on business face particular risks. Despite global communication, business travel remains at a high level. In many companies, the percentage of employees engaged in either business travel or longer term assignments are set to rise substantially. Air passenger numbers alone are expected to double to eight billion in the next 20 years; many of these passengers will be business travellers.

This all means more employees facing a variety of risks. These range from major incidents, like earthquakes, to every-day events, such as food safety scares and traffic accidents. The risks and consequences tend to be greater in remote and unfamiliar locations. Regardless, employees do welcome the opportunity to travel and work abroad. It offers life-changing personal and professional opportunities.

The risks are real and are being recognized. The latest Business Resilience Trends Watch found that 63 percent of mobility professionals believe that travel risks have increased over the past year. Security threats are the most commonly reported reason for modified travel itineraries (58 percent). Natural disasters (43 percent) and country risk ratings (42 percent) also account for a significant proportion of changed travel plans. The range of people travelling, and the choice of destination, is changing.

Whatever the destination, or size of project, employers have a clear duty of care to safeguard their employees. Especially as the physical and mental welfare of all employees will remain a focus for tomorrow’s business leaders. The changing work environment will inevitably bring extra pressures. Many employees might find it difficult to adapt to these new ways of working. Mental health issues are already escalating. Increases in rates of obesity, diabetes and non-communicable diseases are being noted in many regions too. These will all present further challenges, and costs.

As Rise of the Humans so clearly sets out, each aspect of our businesses should be reviewed to prepare for the future — and let’s not forget the human side. Now more than ever policies and procedures that ensure the health, security, safety and wellbeing of all employees, in all locations, at all times, are equally important to be a sustainable business.

As we meet the challenges posed by our changing world, we will be best placed to take advantage of the opportunities it offers. If properly prepared, we humans can certainly rise.

Arnaud Vaissié
Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO, International SOS