While most of us are working remotely, socially distancing when running errands, or encountering neighbours on the street, security officers continue to show up for work, often commuting by public transportation to perform their shifts and then returning home. Over the past 12 months, we have come to rely on security officers to keep us safe in our hospitals, grocery stores, and drugstores without acknowledging the fact that they are risking their lives daily to do so. Not only do frontline security workers have to deal with protecting their physical and mental health while on duty, but they have also had to deal with increased aggression from an anxious public, potential job uncertainty due to business closures, and adapting to new technology.
Mental Health and Wellbeing Support
In the spring of 2020, the researchers at the University of Portsmouth released a study of mental health amongst British private security officers. After interviewing 750 frontline workers, they found that almost 40 percent of them had symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – a clear indication that our security officers lack mental health and wellbeing support services. Since the study was released, aggression towards officers in a public-facing role has only increased with officers suffering verbal abuse and threats of violence, especially around new mask mandates in supermarkets like Morrisons, Tesco, and Sainsbury’s.
With some security operations managers acknowledging that violence against their officers is on the uptick, especially with Covid-fatigue, employment anxiety, and increased stress creating quick explosive responses, many existing violence-in-the-workplace programs are being analysed and revamped. Other managers recognise the duty of care to officers who may have been furloughed and are actively working to stay engaged with their staff through social media groups and virtual happy hours that include everything from game nights to karaoke sing-alongs. But while exemplifying leadership at the top is extremely important, checking in with fellow officers should be a shared responsibility to ensure that everyone in the company is engaged and actively contributing to helping out their colleagues.
Clearly, during the last year, taking care of the physical health of security officers has been at the forefront of every security company’s mind, but the longer the pandemic continues to be a part of everyday lives, perhaps the industry should turn its focus to include looking after the mental health of security officers as well.
There’s no doubt that the media’s attention to the pandemic, vaccine availability or unavailability, new variants, expanded lockdowns, and more, is taking a toll on our collective mental health, not just the mental health of our frontline security workers. Taking care of our mental health as well as our physical health should be a priority for everyone. There is a also corporate responsibility to look after staff. Responsible employers support both the physical and mental welfare of their teams.
Look to Leadership
To quote Simon Sinek, “Leadership is not about being in charge. Leadership is about taking care of those in your charge.”
An example of a security company leading from the top and demonstrating a duty of care and compassion for its frontline security officers is 1st Reaction Security. Established in 1999, 1st Reaction Security provides manned and electronic security services to the counties of Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, UK. 1st Reaction Security’s services include security guarding and dog handling, mobile patrol, key holding, access control, fire detection and alarm response, and CCTV monitoring from an industry-standard 24-hour control room (known as their Remote Video Receiving Centre).
Despite the advanced multi-camera software and security technology at their fingertips, it isn’t uncommon to find 1st Reaction Security’s Managing Director, Wayne Southern, performing 13-hour shifts at NHS Northants Mass Covid Vaccination Centre, instead of remaining behind the desk at one of 1rst Reaction Security’s offices. “A good leader is one that is happy to stand with their staff not just behind them,” says Wayne Southern. “Using TrackTik to keep track of where our officers are at all times ensures that the entire team, myself included, stays safe and secure when out on patrol. That kind of peace of mind doesn’t come with a price tag. TrackTik is a good investment in security.”
While security technology like CCTV cameras, mobile patrols, and physical guarding have always been a sound investment for businesses to make, technology has stepped up over the past year with newer technologies now being considered by hospitals, educational institutes, office towers, and even grocery stores as they adopt new safety measures to protect their workforce and customer base. These new technologies could help ease some of the health-related anxiety and stress currently suffered by security officers.
In the past pre-pandemic world, CCTV cameras may have been enough, but now many businesses are turning to thermal cameras to check if a customer has an elevated temperature and even detect if customers are wearing masks. Touchless technology like hand dryers which are commonly used in public toilet facilities has given way to a whole new kind of contactless experiences such as keyless entry and touchless check-ins, using no sign-in mobile apps on your mobile phones. Robots are also increasingly being used to deliver a contactless experience from sanitizing workplaces and moving materials from one place to another. Badger Technologies – part of TrackTik’s 360 program – recently launched an ultraviolet disinfection robot to disinfect hospitals.
Analytics and data-driven insights are also playing a key role when it comes to reassuring clients that their security needs are being addressed. While regular reports on incidents and alerts are important, using the data contained in those reports will help security companies gain valuable insights and spot trends.
Protecting Key Workers
Security officers being classified as key workers during the last year was an important, if not overdue, milestone for the industry. However, with the new challenges brought upon by the pandemic, the industry must pivot and deliver the same reassurances to our security officers as our security officers deliver to the general public.
There are tremendous opportunities for the industry to grow as a result of the past year by continuing to demonstrate to clients that security is a worthwhile investment to make, but it’s equally important to invest in the physical and mental health of our frontline security officers by providing them with access to the mental health and wellbeing services they may need. The companies that know where to invest their time, energy, and resources, and communicate that to their clients will stand out as we embrace the new challenges ahead.
Tips for Employers and Leaders
Trauma Awareness Training
TrackTik was founded in 2013 and quickly established itself as a market leader with the mission to build better software so its clients can run smarter businesses. TrackTik’s AI-driven technology enables security organisations to connect frontline staff, back office management, and their clients to drive improved operational efficiency and data insights. TrackTik helps security professionals make automated, data-driven decisions with its cloud-based seamless approach to system connectivity. Headquartered in Montreal, Canada, with offices in the United Kingdom and Europe, TrackTik offers four integrated suites of tools – Security Operations for Guarding, Back Office Management, Mobile Patrol and Dispatch, and Business Intelligence & Reporting Analytics, to help security service companies follow the progression of guards, reduce manual tasks, lower costs, and demonstrate value.