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9 types of workplace threats to prepare for in 2021

Workplace security threats are inevitable. In a recent Forrester survey, 100% of companies said they suffered at least one critical event in the past 24 months. In fact, companies often dealt with multiple critical events in that timeframe (more than four, on average). The events varied from natural disasters (33%) to supply chain disruption (22%). 

Secure workplaces protect all their stakeholders from serious physical and financial harm. This includes employees, customers, partners, assets, and investors. If they don’t, the ripple effects of even one critical event can result in organizational damage. This includes hindering a company’s operational activity and putting personnel at risk. To prepare for a critical workplace threat, companies first need to identify the different security risks they face.

Here are some common workplace threats your company should prepare for:

1. Health threats

Health security became the unexpected face of workplace security in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Companies have had to rethink how they operate to ensure their teams can continue to work without risking illness. COVID-19 has underlined the importance of employee health to business continuity. Health threats like global pandemics will stay top of mind for well-prepared businesses in 2021 and beyond.

2. Natural disaster or extreme weather 

Natural disasters don’t spare workplaces when they strike. While these events are impossible to control or predict, companies can prepare to withstand a natural emergency and the hazards that may result. Failing to prepare for a natural disaster could put personnel at risk, disrupt workplace operations, and result in irrecoverable economic costs.

3. Theft of physical or intellectual property 

The most plain security threats may be those to a company’s physical and intellectual property, which can include anything from patents and employee know-how to trade secrets, laptops, and physical documents. To prepare, organizations should train employees to keep their important physical and intellectual property safe and invest in technology that manages workplace access. 

4. IT failure of a business-critical system 

Hardware or software failures, accidental damage, network communication issues, or some other business-critical IT failure can do lasting damage to a business. At the very least, it can be time-consuming, expensive, and challenging to reverse. But, with the right preventative measures in place, organizations can minimize the impact caused by an IT failure, or in some cases, avoid it altogether.

5. Cyberattack 

Cybercrimes, though common among workplace security issues, are preventable. Companies need to develop a deep understanding of their cybersecurity vulnerabilities to safeguard against a cyber attack. Possible risks include privilege abuse, data mishandling, unapproved hardware and software, and email misuse.

6. Utility outage 

Utility outages are hazardous at worst and inconvenient at best. In today’s modern workscape, a utility outage could cause major communication issues among employees, customers, and partners. In many cases, utility outages are preventable with preparation and training. 

7. Executive protection 

Executive protection includes risk mitigation procedures that ensure the safety of workers who may be at more personal risk due to their role, net worth, or public status. For some companies, ensuring the safety of at-risk personnel, like CEOs and executive-level employees, is board-mandated. Corporate protection services can include threat analysis, special event security, and travel risk management. 

8. Brand and reputation crises 

Brand reputation directly ties to a company’s market value. What may take years to grow can tarnish overnight. Nowadays, it can be a single tweet that takes a company down. Risks can come from any part of the business, including unethical suppliers, partners, employees, political groups that oppose how a company conducts business—even competition.  

9. Supply chain disruption

Companies should also prepare to assess and manage supply chain risks. Such risks can result from geopolitical and geophysical events, natural disasters, and various other causes. Conducting a supply chain vulnerability assessment and establishing a risk-management plan of action is essential to managing these types of threats.

Prevention and mitigation planning are both important to effectively minimize disruptions from workplace threats. Organizations need to be able to identify emerging problems before they become full-blown threats. Doing so also helps minimize damage caused by a workplace threat.

Learn how to create your plan in the 2021 workplace preparedness playbook.