It’s been nearly nine months since office workers were packing up their desks and heading home to prepare for the first national lockdown.
A lot has changed since this socially distanced world took hold, particularly as firms were forced to rethink their operations to keep their business, and the country, running.
With workplaces coming in and out of hibernation and restrictions differing by region, security providers also had to adapt to support clients during these challenging times.
The crux of our role has not changed – we remain focused on keeping our customers’ sites and people safe, thanks to the hard work of our security officers and analysts. However, the national spirit of overcoming this pandemic together has encouraged a shift to focus on improving the way we collaborate with other organisations, including the police, industry bodies and, believe it or not, with competitors.
This collaboration has taken many forms and has been key to ensuring that we can support our clients and the communities where we operate at this time of need.
Let’s go back to the beginning
Thinking back to the start of the pandemic, it’s fair to say that an industry focus on collaboration kicked off soon after the UK Government announced the first lockdown. Our sector rallied together to ensure key worker status was obtained for our vital workforce so they could help keep Britain running throughout the pandemic.
With many businesses focused on transitioning their day-to-day activities to online and remote working, the responsibility was on FM companies to prepare their clients’ sites for hibernation. However, keeping sites safe and secure is more than just switching off the lights and locking the doors.
Technology is key, which is why many security providers advised clients of the benefits of rolling out solutions that enable security teams to quickly create and update incident reports. By doing so, security officers were able to reduce the time spent on paperwork and concentrate on their job on the front line. Meanwhile, clients had peace of mind, as they were able to keep track of what was happening at their sites.
Coming together in a crisis
Technology continues to encourage collaboration among competitors. For example, several of our retail clients have agreed to anonymously share information on criminal behaviour with each other and, where appropriate, with police. By pooling their information, these businesses are tracking wider trends and supporting local police forces in building cases against organised crime groups. Resources have been tighter than ever this year; however, technology can help businesses come together and stay one step ahead in order to keep our communities safe.
We also saw security professionals working with other FM partners to tackle the crisis. This was shown with the quick mobilisation of the UK’s ‘field hospitals’, where we worked alongside competitors, such as ISS and Capita, to support the NHS. We’ve also seen the sector come together with the Department for Health and Social Care to mobilise the nation’s test centres – we’re incredibly proud to have hundreds of Mitie security officers supporting dozens of test centres throughout the UK.
With social events cancelled and people required to stay at home, it was not long before we started seeing the queues usually expected at airport security shifting to supermarkets. We saw an unprecedented demand for licensed security officers this year, requiring us to step up our recruitment.
However, with training previously requiring in-person attendance, we quickly worked with colleagues at the Security Industry Authority (SIA) to switch to an online approach to accreditation – helping us keep up with the rapid increase in demand but more importantly, offering new opportunities for people wanting to join the sector, and ensuring they had full training and support.
Adapting to the ‘new normal’
As national restrictions were eased, many of our customers began preparing for a return to the workplace and our priority quickly became doing everything we could to bring employees back safely. This included creating ‘security checklists’ and working closely with colleagues to ensure buildings were safe for employees, especially where sites had spent weeks in hibernation. In offering this support, we took some of the pressure from our clients and allowed them to focus on what they do best, keeping their businesses running.
We also worked closely with our suppliers to launch thermal imaging cameras and guidance for officers when dealing with people exhibiting a potential fever. Not only have these fever-screening solutions helped keep people safe, they have also brought peace of mind to colleagues who feel that their employers are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of infections.
The response to the coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the amazing things we can achieve as a nation by working together. From suppliers and customers, to competitors and government, this collaboration has taken many forms, as we all pull together to support the UK through this challenging time.
While coming together has been key, what is clear is that none of these achievements would have been possible without the support of our security officers on the ground, and other key workers. We’re incredibly thankful to our frontline heroes, who have worked tirelessly during this time, to keep us safe and the UK running.
Director of Assurance, Security and Business Services at Mitie
You see additional articles on collaboration in our Police & Partnerships category including Mike Reddington from the BSIA on dealing with the global pandemic and Dr David Rubens on Resilience during Covid-19.