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Security and the Open Corporate Campus

Jeff Smith
Security and the open corporate campus
©Jeremy Bittermann

In America today, corporate campuses are often envisioned as utopian town squares, places where employees and visitors mix and collaborate, and where, just as there are no bad ideas, there are no bad people.

In our idealistic drive to create Great Places to Work, physical security concerns have been muffled. The April 3 shooting at YouTube’s headquarters serves as a terrible reminder that when it comes to security and the open corporate campus, there is a tenuous balance between accessibility, transparency, and safety.

Violence on corporate campuses is by no means rampant. Firearm-related workplace homicides decreased 67% between 1994 and 2014. However, it is the job of the security consultant to anticipate potential danger. Campuses without a secured perimeter and with multiple points of entry are vulnerable.

Open campuses are often beautiful, even inspiring, places to visit. The American corporate worker spends a third of their waking day enveloped within their corporate campus. Owners, architects, and interior designers strive tirelessly to make the workplace a healthy and productive environment. Security is a key component.

What can the security consultant do to reinforce safety and inspiration? Can technology supplant the secured facility? What role will biometrics play? Will artificial intelligence identify and alert us to things that seem out-of-place?

Based on current information, the most state-of-the-art security systems wouldn’t have prevented the YouTube incident.

Instead, we advise focusing on the fundamentals.

Three Fundamentals of Workplace Security

1: Security Should Be Designed in Layers

Similar to the castle in the past, security starts with a well-defined perimeter, which could be as simple as landscaping, fencing, or plantings. The intent is to direct all outsiders through a point where they are screened. Securing the campus allows people to be funneled through known entry/exit points and be assessed and assigned a level of site access. Building perimeter doors should be locked, only allowing access to authorized persons. The goal is to create layers of ever-increasing security and allow access for the correct people to the correct spaces. We want it to be frictionless, but structured enough so that the wrong people can’t go where they’re not supposed to go.

2: Train Employees in Basic Security Procedures

We are raised to think that it’s polite to hold the door open for visitors. Unfortunately, this learned behavior results in security lapses. Employees should be trained to act as a further layer of security attentiveness at badged entries/exits. Never let in someone who hasn’t scanned their badge. Never block open a secured door for convenience. Report broken or unlocked doors and gates (an unlocked gate between the parking garage and a courtyard was reportedly how the YouTube shooter gained access). If something seems out of place, it’s imperative to say something.

Badging is also another element of security training. It’s difficult to enforce people having to wear their badges, and it’s not popular at some organizations. However, requiring everyone to wear badges raises everyone’s level of security, especially if those badges have identifiers or colors so you can easily identify if people belong in specific areas.

3: Align Technology with Policies and Procedures

Technology implementation should enhance policies and procedures that already exist. The implementation of a visitor management system is one part of ensuring the security of the facility. This system ensures visitors are directed to a single point of entry and screened prior to being allowed access. Also, people can be identified in the system, potentially flagged as being on a watch list, so that if a known threat comes on site they can be dealt with at the appropriate location and not in back-of-house areas.

Open or Secure?

How do you predict whether or not a violent episode will happen on your corporate campus? Reality is you can only try to mitigate those risks with good policies, procedures and use of technology. Ultimately, there are no guarantees.

The tension between openness and security is a tough dilemma. Every design decision has unintended consequences. The answer lies in finding the balance that will make your employees happy, productive and secure.

It’s important to watch the evolution of technology and observe how organizations work to balance openness yet provide a safe and secure workplace.

Next step: network security. Are your networked devices vulnerable? Download our IoT network readiness checklist:

Jeff Smith
Jeff Smith, Principal, Vice President

Jeff puts his decades of experience across all physical security disciplines to work creating systems that will last for the lifespan of his clients’ buildings. He started his career as a technician doing field implementation, a perspective that informs his approach to usability and efficiency. Jeff oversees the entire security department at TEECOM and ensures that the security component of all projects is integrated within the overall technology system.