Board mandated executive protection programs for the C-suite almost always take their point of departure in the workplace. While travel and residential components vary significantly from program to program, the one thing most corporate EP programs have in common is robust protective procedures for the office environment. For as long as corporate headquarters have existed and been where our principals spend the largest share of their working hours – and that’s a very long time – the workplace has been the focal point of personal protective programs.
Now that the COVID-19 pandemic has turned remote working from quirky to mainstream, the situation looks very different. Millions of employees – including the C-suite – have moved work home. Major corporations have announced that they embrace remote work not only now, for COVID reasons, but also in the future, for all kinds of reasons. The economic impact of this sea change is already affecting all kinds of industries – from real estate to restaurants and recruiting – and will also affect the executive protection industry.
Corporate environments provide a strong security infrastructure that homes do not
Like the old song goes, you don’t know what you got til it’s gone. Now that many principals are spending significant amounts of work time at home, it has become clear just much EP programs for the C-suite have benefitted from what is standard security infrastructure for most modern corporations. To be honest, we take a lot of these things for granted – until we can’t.
For starters, there is the range of equipment that all public spaces have by law or best practice – and only some private residences have by choice. This includes high-end smoke and fire detectors, fire-suppression sprinklers everywhere, fire extinguishers where they’re needed, and reliable intruder alarm systems backed up nearby guard patrols.
But corporate campuses benefit from many other standard security enhancements that are far from common at the residential level: biometric access control; perimeter security enhancements like concrete walls, bollards and stand-off areas; bullet-resistant glass and impenetrable doors; safe rooms; on-premise guard teams; and effective mail screening – to mention just a few. And then there is all the emergency medical assistance like automated external defibrillators (AEDs), extensive first aid equipment and capabilities, including on-site nurses and even doctors.
Let’s not forget emergency generators and water supplies. And all the IT security procedures and protocols that are common on corporate campuses but not so common when it comes to homes with family, friends, and staff coming and going in far less controlled ways.
While some ultra-high net worth residences do feature some or all of the above-mentioned security enhancements, many do not. What does all this mean for executive protection teams charged with keeping the C-suite safe while they work from home? It means a lot. And it looks like remote working will only grow in the future.
When risks change, executive protection needs to change, too
When companies around the world first told employees to work from home rather than come to the office, no one know how long these strange Corona times would last. Now, six months later, we still don’t know. Even as restrictions have been relaxed and some staff have returned to their offices, many have not.
It is increasingly clear that some of the changes brought on by the pandemic will likely last for a long, long time. Even if and when a safe, effective vaccine has been rolled out. Zoom and MS Teams meetings have now become commonplace. Many have discovered that time spent on the daily commute can be used more productively. HR directors are rethinking how people best work and collaborate. The commercial real estate market is under pressure. Most corporations have revamped remote working policies. Some have announced that employees will not be required to return to the office until at least some time next year. Some have chiseled everyone’s right to work remotely into stone, forever.
Many CEOs and other C-suiters are leading the shift to remote working by example. They, too, are now working from home more than ever. Many will likely continue to do so for a long time.
If the EP industry wants to stay relevant when our principals are spending so much work time at home, we need to innovate residential protection. We must find ways to compensate for the security infrastructures that underpinned working at corporate headquarters without simply replacing them, which would be both difficult if not impossible to do in many residential settings and extremely expensive.
To do so, we will need to think creatively across the board. People, procedures and tech will all play a role.