On The Frontline With… Chris Stylianou, Security Manager, The Gherkin
When did you join Corps and what does your current role involve?
I have been with Corps since 2018 when I TUPEed across from the previous incumbent. I was security supervisor when I started with Corps and then logistics manager, before becoming security manager in August 2019.
In total I’ve worked for more than 20 years in the security industry as well as doing other things like working in property management. Working in property management helped me see things from a different perspective. Having a varied background means I can be more helpful with a wider remit of tasks.
At The Gherkin I am responsible for all security processes in the building, both front and back-of-house. Day-to-day I manage the admin and payroll for my team and ensure all areas are secured and manned. I communicate regularly with City of London Police with regards to counter terrorism. I also create all staff procedures and guidelines and train Corps personnel as well as delivering security awareness training to non-security staff. This makes them feel more comfortable about challenging visitors and contractors.
How has your role changed as a result of Covid-19?
Like for many people, the pandemic has involved long periods of working from home. I’ve also spent a lot of time refining procedures and managing my team. We split staff into key teams, so they weren’t all in contact with each other and our officers’ shift pattern changed from four-on, four-off to four-on, six-off.
Hundreds of phone calls and video meetings were a very different kettle of fish to the face-to-face contact I’m used to. Usually my role is very hands-on, and it was a real change making sure procedures were enforced from a distance.
The Gherkin is owned by an international company that has other buildings around the world, so it was great to work with global teams that were dealing with different stages of Covid-19. We had a process in place before the government officially announced lockdown, so this made things a lot smoother flowing.
We are now working to welcome back a steady influx of tenants. There will be much more change to come.
What are the main challenges you face in your daily role now compared to before?
Managing my team has become more complex. I have 40 team members and they each have varying needs related to Covid-19. Some need to shield and some have vulnerable family members, so I had to take a view on furloughing those employees. Doing the best for everyone and being fair is quite challenging. It’s a balancing act trying to keep everyone happy. People have a lot of worries at the moment and you have to be sensitive to that.
What’s it been like working on the front-line during the crisis, particularly in buildings which are at reduced occupancy? What have you had to adapt to and do differently?
We’ve done a lot of preparatory work for welcoming tenants back into the building. These procedures started to be created as we were going into lockdown. Now thoughts are more focused on managing breakout and social areas, high traffic flow zones, frequent risk assessments and ensuring we have adequate stocks of PPE. We need to keep people safe and distant.
Floor markers and signage that was initially deployed has had to be revised to meet changing guidance. Entrances and exits have been changed to support a one-way system and how we onboard visitors and contractors has also changed so we can ensure the building is Covid friendly.
During the lockdown period, I set up a Deliveroo account for our security staff to make sure they had food during their shifts – that was something I never thought I’d be doing!
Do you think people’s perception of the role a security officer plays will change as a result of the crisis?
I’m not sure. I was shopping in a supermarket recently and there was a display of pictures that children had drawn to thank key workers. 12-14 occupations that children wanted to say thank you for were listed but ‘security officer’ was nowhere to be seen. Most of the places that were permitted to trade during lockdown had a security officer present even if they wouldn’t normally as standard practice.
It’s a worry that our roles and the importance of security could be been overlooked especially as we now know that the security officers have the highest death rates from Covid-19.
Security officers have a huge role to play in helping people abide by social distancing too as well as temperature checks and monitoring queue systems and making sure they are safe and effective. Terrorism has not gone away either– it’s not just Covid vigilance that is required.
The security industry is somewhat lost in the background and I think the work we do needs to be reinforced with the public. Generally, we can be thought of as a bit of a nuisance and it’s only in emergency situations like evacuations or terrorist threats that people then become thankful.
What positive things do you think we can take into the post-pandemic world?
I definitely think the pandemic has brought people closer together and made people appreciate the simple things more. It’s also made people realise what you generally take for granted. We lost our liberty for a certain amount of time but for some people this is normal. It’s made us really aware of things like that in life.
The pandemic has forced people to think about others more and you suddenly realise things that people live through on a day-to-day basis that you had no idea about, like someone being a part-time carer, for example.
It’s good that people can see each other more now especially as many are facing financial hardship or loss. Being able to see other people and getting support is really important.
What’s your favourite thing about working in security?
I’m a really sociable person so I love being around lots of people with different personalities. There are challenges to overcome every day and no day is ever the same, I like that. We often have events at The Gherkin that are attended by very respected people including royals and famous people so it’s nice to be involved in safeguarding them.
What would you say has been your biggest highlight whilst working for Corps?
Earlier this year I had the pleasure of going to Gloucester with some of my team to take part in a counter-terrorism exercise. Security officers and building mangers from reputable establishments all around the country were there. I was so proud of my colleagues and the way they conducted themselves. My team were commended by the Centre of Protection for National Infrastructure (CPNI) and they said they were the best team. Our team was so honoured, and it was a very proud moment for me.
What do you like doing outside of work?
I volunteer as a football coach for a charity football club. I coach a group of 11-year olds, and I’ve been doing it for seven years. It takes up a lot of spare time, but I love it.