Providing security in a shopping centre environment is already a tough job even before you add pandemic risk mitigation into the mix. With non-essential shops due to open soon, Incentive FM is ramping up its ‘Business Resumption Programme’ which acknowledges the increased role that the security teams will need to play in keeping members of the public and retail staff both safe and compliant.
“A number of our security staff have been on furlough for much of the past year and so it is vital that we refresh their training and provide up to date guidance to ensure that they feel both safe and able to work,” tells Andrew Robbins, associate director of security at Incentive FM
Some staff, of course, have not been furloughed but have been working at centres which have been partially open throughout the pandemic for essential shops and take away food outlets. “We believe that they will provide additional support for their colleagues and share their experiences and learnings,” says Robbins.
Mental health and wellbeing considerations are at the forefront of Incentive’s approach to combat the increased number of strains being put on its teams in recent months. Robbins says that communication and collaboration are key as always and Incentive has a documented framework to ensure this approach is standard across all of its retail portfolio.
Traditionally, he says, a retail security officer’s main focus was to prevent any theft or damage from taking place. Over the years, however, this role has evolved to put more of an emphasis on keeping staff and customers safe. The pandemic has delivered further changes, not least managing people’s differing views on the restrictions that we will need to enforce within the shopping centres.
“Some people are simply less convinced about the need to follow the hands, face, space guidance,” he says. “There is also increasing evidence that others who have had their jabs may refuse to comply altogether so it seems that our security officers are once again likely to be facing some challenging situations.”
With footfall levels expected to see a slow-but-steady rise once restrictions ease, it remains hard to predict when numbers will return to pre-pandemic levels, especially with research suggesting that people may continue to enjoy shopping online even after lockdown. Despite this, Robbins is confident that a lot of people will want to take advantage of the retail and leisure experience retail destinations clients offer and Incentive will deploy its resource accordingly.
Later in the year, security teams we will need to consider further changes from the outcomes from Protect Duty which is likely to include a legal requirement for public places to ensure preparedness for and protection from terrorist attacks. The Government programme is the result of a manifesto commitment to draw on lessons learned from previous terrorist incidents, in particular the Manchester arena attack.
“Luckily, we are in a good place,” says Robbins. “Pre-covid, the strategy for us as a company was to take security across our business to the next level, making sure we provide a best possible service to our clients as trusted advisors and ensuring their premises remain safe and secure. We have and will continue to do this and address any new challenges along the way.”
This feature was first published in Retail Destination Fortnightly