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Security Challenges of Reopening Offices, Campuses, and Venues

Part 1: Understanding and accounting for the psychological security of reopening

In late April, Armored Things CEO Julie Johnson Roberts, and board member Tom Axbey had the opportunity to join a Clubhouse discussion hosted by investor Glasswing Ventures about some of the security challenges involved with reopening post-COVID for businesses, schools and venues.

The participants represented a 360-degree view of the topic covering everything from security and technology to business and operations. The speakers include:

  • Rick Grinnell — Founder and Managing Partner, Glasswing Ventures
  • Julie Johnson Roberts — Co-Founder & CEO, Armored Things
  • Tom Axbey — Operator, Investor, Advisor, and Armored Things Board Member
  • David McLeod — VP, Chief Information Security Officer, Cox Enterprises
  • Charlie Bonomo — Senior Vice President & CIO, MSC Industrial Supply
  • Brendan Welter — Chief Security & Technology Officer, Sterling National Bank
  • Chris Lord — Co-founder and CTO, Armored Things

This is the first in a series of four blogs sharing some of the insights from what was a really interesting and informative discussion. In this segment, David McLeod, Charlie Bonomo and Brendan Welter have just been talking about what reopening looks like in their enterprise organizations.

Rick Grinnell
Julie, I want to think about a few other vertical use cases because your company is going after venues and sports teams and other things beyond the enterprise. So, what’s your perspective on some of the concerns that your customers are facing right now and the challenges that you’re helping them deal with?

Julie Johnson Roberts
What I think is most consistent is that everyone’s experience is so different right now. There are some places [no matter the vertical] that are leapfrogging in terms of technical projects being accelerated in the downtime while others are slowing. There are folks bringing people back quickly, and then folks who are consolidating offices and taking a much more measured approach. The theme that I heard through all of this is that there is no consistent new normal, right? We’re not all universally going back to the office 9-5, Monday through Friday, at least in corporate environments. And therefore, I think the data that will be collected as people come back is going to be paramount. How do we understand our new policies and their impact on our environment? Everyone is taking a slightly different approach, but the data is really important as we reopen. From a capacity perspective and our ability to enforce these policies, but importantly, in the comfort and the trust that they engender with people that they’re following government restrictions, but that we also have good control over our environment.

David McLeod
You know, Julie, I really like hearing that, because when I think about my corporate campus environments, that could get me in trouble, in terms of public perception and trust. Because I have to admit, I didn’t really understand the psychological safety thing near as much as when I made 60 trips last year. And I was standing in the Minneapolis airport, social distancing, everybody cautious [in the] middle of COVID last year, and suddenly, one person just freaked out and said, ‘You’re standing too close to me’ and everybody scattered. And I realized, you know what? All our little compliance things, she wasn’t safe, right? It was too much for that person in that environment.

Julie Johnson Roberts
Well, the question is, how is that going to change over time? Day one of each place’s new normal might look very different. Rick said he’s going to a Celtics game, right.  And I think Massachusetts venues, in general, are hoping to go to 25% in May and then steadily 50%, 75% and more. (Editor’s Note: Massachusetts will permit 100% capacity as of May 29th). What happens to comfort? Are there people who opt in at 12%, who might opt out at 80%? We don’t know that yet. The data will be very interesting. There are so many different factors that play into everyone’s mental calculus. What’s my risk? What’s my family’s risk? Have I been vaccinated? Do I feel confident in the practices that have been put in place? But communication is going to be a huge piece of this. How am I being communicated to and because of that, what’s my confidence level?

Charlie Bonomo
I also think about enforcing consistency once people are back in the office. It’s just human nature that over time, if I’m going back in, I’m around the same people. Let’s have a meeting. And before you know it, you have conference rooms that are crammed with a dozen people, and they present what’s either an unsafe environment, and you just don’t know who is going to react negatively to that. I think that going to be a big challenge — how do we manage those shared spaces to make sure that we are constantly reminding people that just because we’re back in the office, it doesn’t mean we should cram 100 people in a meeting room.

Julie Johnson Roberts
How do we get ahead of that? Maybe we’re sometimes talking about 100 people- or a 1,000. But sometimes we are talking about 12 people.  So, we talk a lot about preparedness or early alerting. How do we let you know at 80% of [capacity]? We can potentially give you advanced warning—because what do you do after the fact, when you already have those 12 people filling up a room?

This is part one of a four-post series. To continue on to part two, click here.


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