On the Run
Businesses take a proactive approach to employee safety, security
- By Annie Asrari
- Jul 11, 2018
The modern workplace is increasingly mobile. The
prevalence of secure mobile internet and emphasis
on face-to-face collaboration has seen corporations
increasingly emphasize remote work for their employees.
Running perpendicular to this trend, however, is
a sharp increase in the number and frequency of natural and manmade
emergencies. Corporations are implementing tools and processes
necessary to keep employees safe while they are away from
In a recent research paper released by Everbridge titled “Safety
and Security for Business Travelers, Lone and Remote Workers,” the
study found that mobile workers are most concerned about communication
during an extreme weather, fire, explosion or active shooter
situation. Additional statistics from the research underscore how often
mobile workers find themselves in harm’s way.
- Twenty-five percent of employers stated that they have had their
mobile workers in the proximity of a workplace violence situation
in the past 12 months, while 20 percent have had travelers in the
proximity of a terrorist attack within 72 hours of its occurrence.
- Eighty-four percent of respondents said they had remote workers affected
by a location-specific weather event in the last twelve months.
Organizations need to quickly communicate with their employees
in case of a location-based critical event. This is why many businesses
are moving towards creating “fusion centers” or “command centers”
that manage all workplace systems and disruptions from a central
location. These centers have dedicated staff that can analyze a number
of information streams, such as social media, media and access
systems that can be used to identify major events as they happen.
But not all emergencies are created equal. Businesses cannot afford to
have their mobile workers have alert fatigue so it’s up to the command
center’s staff to assess the threat and take definitive action.
It is also important to discuss data privacy as it relates to employee
communications. Facebook and other tech companies have
been in the news for their aggressive acquisition of personal data. If
positioned incorrectly, it is easy to see how a well-intentioned mobile
worker plan could be positioned as a corporate “Big Brother” intent
on tracking employees’ whereabouts. The good news is that the overwhelming
majority of workers in our study said they were ok with
sacrificing privacy for safety during business trips. It’s not always easy
to walk that fine line between privacy and protection but it’s something
that workers will understand if it’s communicated correctly.
Modern mobile worker safety programs hinge on three key capabilities:
understanding who potentially could be affected by an event,
utilizing a “check-in” system that allows employees to let security
teams know if they are ok and, finally, providing information that
helps them get out of that situation.
Effective Mobile Worker Programs
Rely on Elimination
When a critical event occurs, the first step a security team will do is
determine who is not in danger. The beauty of today’s digital world
is that everything is connected and many of the devices and technologies
we use on a daily basis transmit data instantaneously that can be
automatically acquired by commend center staff.
Everything from modest access control and badging systems to
more sophisticated biometric systems that require fingerprint and
facial recognition track specific employee movements between corporate
buildings. Wi-Fi access points act similarly, providing location
information linked to laptops, apps and other devices your employees
connect to throughout your facilities.
Many enterprises find this to be their first major hurdle when
implementing a mobile worker strategy as they use manual processes
(call lists and spreadsheets) to manage their workforce. By tapping
into these systems, companies can maintain a database of where their
employees are and use that data for triggering automated incident
The Importance of Panic Buttons
In the previously mentioned report, 78 percent of respondents said
their leadership team would like them to confirm that all their people
are safe and accounted for within an hour of a critical event and only
36 percent could do this today.
The mobile phone serves as the centerpiece to mobile worker security
strategies so it’s important that employees download have the
ability to send an SOS signal. If an employee finds him or herself in
an active shooter situation, for example, panic button app capabilities
are extremely valuable. Panic buttons have the capability of sending a
message to an organization’s security team—automatically transmitting
the employee’s location, as well as any shared audio and video
with just the push of a button.
Multi-Modal Communications Approaches
If the check-in messages go unanswered, the first step security teams
need to do is pinpoint their employees’ exact location(s). Many solutions
allow businesses to use interactive, map-based message targeting
to specifically define who will receive their communications.
Enterprises can’t rely solely on mobile phones as the sole communication
channel for their strategy. It stands to reason that sudden,
unexpected events could either see people without their phones or
have them be unreachable due to damage to critical infrastructure.
Businesses can utilize a number of alternatives including desktop
alerts, public websites, Intranets, internal systems and social media.
What’s particularly important for mobile worker programs is the
ability to integrate within a specific geographic location seamlessly.
Organizations with globally distributed employees, contractors, customers
or partners must be able to support local dialects, languages
and preferred regional communication methods into their emergency
alert systems. Organizations can reduce the difficulty of communicating
tasks under pressure and increase recipient comprehension by delivering
messages in a local language that is familiar to the recipient.
International travelers will require special strategies from businesses
because notification systems must comply with local data
privacy and security laws. This isn’t just a regulatory mandate; it’s
a safety one as non-compliant systems won’t be able to deliver messages
to at-risk workers in different parts of the world. These laws can
differ by region and often restrict the transfer of data over country
borders. Organizations should understand the regulatory landscape
of any country its employees or partners travel within to ensure deliverability
isn’t an issue during an emergency.
The speed of business isn’t going to slow down. Corporations
should make investments in their workers’ safety—
whether they are located within their office or
in remote corners of the world. A sound mobile
safety strategy could very well be the difference
between life or death.
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2018 issue of Security Today.