Figures released in June by the Office for National Statistics showed that security officers were most at risk of dying with Covid-19, says Theo Nicolaou
Men made up two-thirds of the 4,761 deaths registered among people of working age (20-64) in England and Wales between 9 March and 25 May. Of these, there were more security officer deaths than in any other profession at 74 per 100,000, or 104 deaths. Covid-19 has altered the security industry in immeasurable ways, not least the perception of it.
Recognised as key workers, security officers have been protecting people, working at properties, supermarkets, testing centres and businesses since the start of the pandemic. They have been heading out while others were instructed to stay in, putting their health and wellbeing on the line. It says a great deal that hundreds of these frontline heroes who played a key role in the immediate response to the pandemic will now be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. However, there are five ways Covid-19 has altered the role of the security officer.
These are sensitive times. A great deal of empathy is required. Instead of being focused on access control and protecting buildings, our officers are taking leading roles in managing and supporting people to adapt to any new environments.
They’re taking people’s temperatures with handheld thermal imaging equipment – and then having difficult conversations with people who appear outside of the allowed range. Someone might be ignorant, someone might be belligerent, someone might be troubled. But if someone comes into an establishment and says: “I’m not going to wear a mask”, it falls on the security officer to deal with that situation.
2. IT skills
Strong IT skills are a crucial element of the security role. Plenty of our officers undertake the daily and weekly checks for FM teams. This involves using the FM's online management system and updating the weekly building information. Many of our officers often move into FM roles or become building managers. Strong IT skills enhance these opportunities.
3. Front-of-house skills
A security officer is the first person returning workers see when they enter a building. This is significant, especially as many returning workers might feel anxious or confused about any new rules or layouts.
This is where strong customer service skills come to the fore. Security officers are on the front line welcoming people back into the workplace and reinforcing the social distancing measures. A smile and greeting people by their name will go a long way.
4. Organisation and planning
Security officers are responsible people and their organisational skills must be impeccable to ensure a smooth back to work transition, whenever that will be.
In scenarios where teams are returning to work in split shifts or staggered hours, officers are making sure that the right employees are allowed in the building at the right time, but politely turning away those who aren’t expected in.
Many are using counters to ensure the right occupancy levels and reporting if these are exceeded. They’re directing the one or two-people-per-lift policy, which can be a real challenge in high-rises. Often, this involves going back to pressing lift buttons to avoid multiple people touching the same surface and spreading the virus.
One of the challenges in this period is to support customers in multi-tenanted buildings. Buildings with a single occupier can decide on policies regarding social distancing, access control and temperature checks. In the former, however, there needs to be consensus on policy between tenants and the landlord. There can’t be a situation where one occupier refuses to use temperature screening. That’s only going to result in more conflict management for the security officer when they have to be firm about the rules but also treat the recipient with respect.
As workplaces reopen, the public will soon appreciate security officers’ efforts to make the process as safe and seamless as possible. Like other frontline roles, their contribution in helping things return to some form of normal will be crucial. And it should not be forgotten.
Theo Nicolaou is managing director at SmartSec Solutions