1. Change expectations. Most employees want to be involved in something greater than a single, relatively narrow job; they want to point with pride to their places of work and to gain fulfilment from what they do. Physical design can help promote these attributes. Security stations must convey strength and seriousness, which will both boost employee morale and yield a satisfying visitor experience. Security screening stations and guard booths deserve the same care and design attention that are devoted to the aesthetics, amenities, and function of corporate offices.
2. Fight boredom. Boredom is a frequent complaint from checkpoint guards. This stems from a lack of variety and from restricted movement, infrequent contact, uninteresting surroundings, and the sense that work is unimportant. Letting people shape their own work environments is key. Within limits, allowing guards to personalize their workstations can make a difference in engagement. For situations involving multiple guards, it is important to provide a hangout—a place for them to gather informally during breaks. Encourage the comparing of notes and the exchange of ideas that form part of most people’s work lives.
3. Encourage comfort. Paying attention to the comfort of guards is critical. To this end, security managers must ask themselves whether facilities meet the basic needs of the guards. Is ventilation adequate? What about protection from headlight glare or direct sunlight? Is it difficult to enter and exit guard areas? How easy is it for guards to confer with visitors? Can guards obtain beverages or snacks? Where do they take breaks or store clothing and personal items?
4. Promote conversation. “All I care about is seeing proper ID,” an armed guard at a tightly controlled entrance to a private office complex told me. “That’s all I’m supposed to check for.” However, an effective security officer should inquire about a visitor’s purpose or intended length of stay, gauging the responses. None of this can happen if the design of the booth makes it difficult for the guard and visitor to converse, or if conditions are so unpleasant that everyone just wants the experience to be over with as quickly as possible.
5. Empathize. A simple way to assess performance is to ask visitors how security treated them. Corporate managers can visit guards regularly, getting to know them and delving into how they see their work, understanding their challenges and the improvements they suggest. Using these tactics can help managers visualize more design changes.
Vonier, CPP, FAIA (Fellow, American Institute of Architects), is a licensed
architect and security professional.