Safety and Security During – and After – COVID-19

Matt Smith

4m read

April 20

The safety and security of our employees is always on my mind. When COVID-19 hit last year, providing a safe and secure environment looked a lot more different than it ever has before. As we learned more, it became clear that this was (and is) a very complex crisis – and we needed to simplify and evolve our security and safety procedures as much as possible in order to quickly respond. 

We started by looking at common standards that could be applied everywhere. It’s impossible to make a one size fits all solution, and with an increasingly decentralized workforce and distributed workforce, there are entirely new risks. Starting with what our sites had in common helped us build solutions to scale, quickly. For example, each country had mandates about masks. While they might have differed in regulations or laws, we knew that we would have a line item for masks and PPE. Another example was social distancing – each country had varying recommendations on exactly what social distancing meant, so while the number varied from place to place, each had a recommendation about distance. 

We embraced the concept of personal risk tolerance from the onset. Much like during the various stages of the pandemic, we all had different individual levels of risk that we were willing to engage in. There is no more “one size fits all” solution for personal security. Our security and safety support model needs to be built on personalization, and each tool has to enable the individual. For example, new grads, new employees, and ad hoc trips to new areas and markets will need an entirely different support model from our Safety and Security team. 

As we prepare for what’s next, employees deserve a support model of tools and applications for safety and community based on their personal preferences and risk tolerance at a global level. Moving forward, we need to create intelligent solutions to create something that is based on employee risk appetite. As such, we are offering a fully integrated set of safety and security tools that are tailored to what personal risk tolerance and risk appetite each employee has. It’s fully connected to our GSOC, who are ready to respond and support those employees at a global level.  

We also need commitments from our employees to uphold their end of the bargain – updating contact info, reporting suspicious activities, and staying up to date on the latest security requirements and postures. Employees will be expected to meet the minimum requirements set by the company, but personal needs will be addressed. 

When we started focusing on the future of work and what returning to work looked like, we did a lot of surveys and focus groups to determine what people were looking forward to or wanted to see when they returned (spoiler: it was connection). We have started to adapt our existing toolbox to help meet those desires by looking for commonalities, listening to employees, surveys and tailoring the process and approach to better serve employees and innovate old tools and processes. 

One of the things we thought about early on in this stage was fostering collaboration between who was in the office in a hybrid environment. How do you keep this spontaneity of pulling someone into a meeting you weren’t expecting to meet with?

We updated our access control system and turned it into a Facebook-like check-in tool by building an integration with Slack. Essentially, what our IT and Security Engineering teams built, using all of the existing access data we had, was a tool that allowed you to “announce” your arrival to preselected members of your team when you arrived at an office, using your first badge swipe. Further integrations with our space and capacity planning tools will allow employees to find each other’s permanent or hotel desks in real-time, further enhancing our ability to collaborate and connect.

For example, I can select various people from my organization or team that I want to notify when I’m at the office. When I check in automatically on arrival by simply swiping my physical or virtual mobile badge, and the system knows that I’m working from that office that day. The people that I pre-selected will get a notification when I arrive. This creates opportunities to ping each other automatically and to let people know that you’re available and pull me into that meeting – that I’m available in real-time at this location. As an added benefit, since our security team now knows I am working out of that office for the day, I will also receive important security messages that I might have missed.

This is just one example of how we are innovating as part of our FLEXSpace initiative to meet employee needs. There are many challenges facing us – and part of our goal is to create an environment that makes our employees feel safe regardless of each individual’s circumstances – and it’s a challenge I’m up for taking.