47% Of SA Employees Admit To Making ‘Critical’ Errors As They Adapted To The New Normal

New Iron Mountain survey reveals surprising lack of internal risk awareness.


Nearly half of the employees surveyed (47%) have made what they consider to be a critical mistake at work, whilst 13% have taken a risk that cost their company money. One in four (23%) admitted to replying all to a private email instead of just to one person. A fifth of employees (19%) have forgotten to mute themselves and said something inappropriate on a work call. With 15%  of all employees acknowledging that they have left sensitive documents on their desk for others to see.

Mistakes result in employee stress

Such mistakes have left 73% feeling stressed and 59% panicked. Other errors include failing to hang up a phone properly before saying something about the person on the other end (11%). But while 23% faced repercussions from their error, over half (56%) escaped being disciplined and 20% admitted that no-one ever found out about their mistake.

A further 36% consider themselves to be ‘adrenaline junkies’ with 14% taking more risks than ever before since the pandemic, according to the survey of 1,000 South African workers, which provides a sample covering the general population.

Proof your risk management requires a rethink

Takalane Khashane, Managing Director, from data storage and information management firm, Iron Mountain, which commissioned the study, said: “We are all human and make mistakes, but it can be stressful when you make one at work, and that stress can snowball into further errors. “How organisations succeed in managing internal risk-taking is crucial, especially given the growing threats posed by remote working and cyber criminality.” The study also found that one in four of working adults (20%) are willing to take a risk at work as long as they don’t get caught. Although 47% have made a mistake or taken a risk in their workplace which left them embarrassed, many are still willing to take major risks.

      • 47% use the same password across multiple platforms
      •  39% forget to lock their laptop when leaving their desk
      •  23% keep their password on a note on their desk

Similarly, over a third (36%) of employees do not see the value in using a privacy screen for their laptop on public transport, 48% do not see forgetting to shred important documents as a risk, and 60 % would be happy to allow family and friends to use their work computer. In spite of these vulnerabilities, it emerged that 60% still consider themselves risk averse at work.

Similarly, 64% consider themselves risk averse when it comes to their personal finances, while 59% avoid any risks in a relationship. Just over half (59%) want to play it safe with their health. Just over  a quarter of adults continue to save their personal card details as a pre-filled form with 37%  logging onto public wi-fi to complete their work.

Khashane added: “Fortunately, while it’s challenging to change human nature, you can change how you approach risk in the workplace.

“It’s important for organisations to build a strong strategy that considers the risks people are likely to take.

“We advise empowering every employee to become a risk ambassador by embedding risk awareness within your culture. “This creates a safe space in which employees can innovate and business thrive by ensuring resilience is built into every stage of your business processes”.


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