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June 1, 2020

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The Video Surveillance Report 2022


International SOS: Returning to work advice for security professionals

James Wood, Head of Security Solutions at International SOS, offers advice on the WORKSAFE steps security professionals should look to take into account as they return to work after lockdown.

More so than ever before, security professionals are facing unprecedented challenges on multiple fronts. At International SOS, we’re seeing an exponential rise of COVID-19 related security cases, which demonstrates how the effects of the pandemic are all-encompassing. In February, for instance, COVID-19 was linked to over 50% of our security cases and in March this number rose to 75%, which is a truly staggering percentage given the number of cases was also increasing to around double the amount we’d normally expect to see over a month.

International SOS has recently highlighted that emerging threats related specifically to the coronavirus include:

  • growing xenophobia,
  • Forms of anti-government sentiment
  • Social unrest and petty crime

With these statistics in mind, it is clear that security teams will play a critical role when transitioning to a ‘new normal’ workplace, as lockdown measures in many nations start to be relaxed. For those organisations looking to return to work, it is vital that any return is safe and sustainable over the long-term.

Although no business can guarantee that the spread of COVID-19 can be fully contained, precautionary steps will minimise risks, fulfil duty of care responsibilities and promote workforce resilience. Whatever the circumstances, whether in an office, a factory, a retail outlet or even out on an oil rig, preparation and ongoing actionable insights drawing from the most up to date information are a must to mitigate risks. These insights need to take into account governmental guidelines and assess what is necessary for a particular workforce to operate.

At International SOS we’ve highlighted eight steps for security teams to consider when assisting their organisations returning to WORKSAFE operations:

Workspace environment

Consider screening, zoning, barriers, cleaning protocols, ventilation, access, and the provision of PPE and IT equipment where needed. Understanding the different security risks associated with different workplace environments is also key. Local management in higher-risk locations should be confident and trained in their responses to any incident; ensure that staff and dependants are familiar with local security plans and know what actions to take in the event of an incident. Actions should be appropriate to the risk environment and managers should be confident in their responsibilities to both the site and their staff.

Even in low risk environments, managers should be aware of their responsibilities and understand who can provide guidance and assistance if they are concerned about the impact of regional tensions on their employees and business unit. It is also important to ensure communication is clear with all members of the workforce at the site. Having plans in place to manage rumours and hearsay information is critical.


Update operational plans to account for measures like isolation, necessary hygiene, health and medical guidelines. Health questionnaires and providing physical and mental health support will also be necessary for many companies.



Pre-existing security policies should be monitored to ensure they are in line with Government regulations and specific medical needs are fully covered including Occupational Health and Safety and travel. Even with some travel restrictions now being lifted, security professionals need to be aware of the continued enhanced powers of governments regarding limiting specific forms of travel. Caution should always be advised, as there is always the possibility that second infection spikes arise in nations who may quickly reimpose strict travel restrictions.


Understanding of the latest quarantine, transport requirements and medical certificates is essential. Security teams need to gain knowledge of how rising threats will specifically affect their organisations.

For instance, the pandemic has triggered growing anti-government sentiment in some regions. This is driven by perceived poor governmental responses to the pandemic as well as high unemployment levels, potentially prompting unrest or challenges to leadership, particularly in locations with polarised societies or those with major political oppositions. If you have people working in regions affected by phenomenon like this, updating contingency plans to properly account for these security threats is important.

Social distancing

Limiting numbers to the workplace, space planning, staggering working hours and days, including A/B team shifts, continued flexible and remote working.


Set up automated methods to be alerted to emerging threats: new local clusters, second waves, and changing security risks. Organisations should ensure they conduct regular reviews of actions carried out in the earlier phases of the crisis, as well as in their plans’ relevance to dealing with the next phases.

This should include ongoing Business Impact Analysis – ideally by trained business continuity professionals – to help identify gaps, disruption to product and service lines (where appropriate) and areas of focus. Reviewing crisis management meetings and conducting After Action Reviews (AARs) will also help to validate plans and procedures in place and prepare effectively for the next phases.


Establish partnerships with apolitical experts, providing accurate and timely advice. Understanding the pre-existing security concerns in the regions in which you are operating is key, as this will help you partner with the best and most effective local experts. We’re beginning to see the pandemic exacerbate underlying security issues, such as: political violence (including terrorism, insurgency, politically motivated unrest and war), social unrest (including sectarian, communal and ethnic violence), violent and petty crime, and the ineffectiveness of certain security and law enforcement services. Partnering with experts who understand these issues is a great way to integrate local knowledge into your security planning.

Empowering employees


Communication and training are vital to deliver new workplace arrangements and policies. Engaging leadership and role modelling are critical at every level of an organisation. One of the biggest challenges for any organisation in such a crisis is access to timely and reliable information. It is the cornerstone of decision making, communication with your workforce and the activation of relevant plans and procedures. Given the volume of information that is available to all members of the workforce, some of which is unverified, false, or misleading, it is essential that organisations are able to access clear information and analysis on the situation.

Following these eight essential guidelines will help security professionals ensure their organisations make the gradual return to a ‘new normal’ workplace as smoothly as possible. Clearly the process may be a difficult one, as the challenges directly caused by COVID-19 go well beyond purely public health consequences; the pandemic has triggered new forms of security issues and exacerbated some existing risks. Those most successful in the recovery stage will account for this, helping their organisations plan for the ongoing crisis in a way which is constantly evolving and accounting for each aspect highlighted above.


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