International Security Journal catches up with Richard Huison, Regional Manager for UK and Europe at Gallagher.
How has the COVID-19 crisis impacted Gallagher on a day-to-day basis?
Gallagher was actually well placed as a result of work already in progress with a number of visionaries and innovators within our business, such as our CIO, Neville Richardson. They are determined to put the business on the front foot, making it more digital and proactive in delivering high speed change and we had already been migrating to Microsoft Teams before COVID-19 first reared its ugly head. It’s part of our philosophy to make our business and the solutions we create as stable, reliable and resilient as possible.
It means Gallagher has adapted to the new way of operating fairly seamlessly, while still working alongside the evolving guidance from governments around the world. When lockdown was imposed, we set about prioritising our clients’ needs and delivering on our commitments as a critical supplier. The Gallagher leadership team quickly rolled out the means to stay connected, positive and safe as each region went into isolation. Effective communication, both internally and externally, has always been a critical success factor for our business. That hasn’t changed with the more remote and virtual nature of our communication now and, if anything, it’s even more important both for business continuity and for the personal wellbeing of each and every one of our colleagues.
We’ve quickly adapted to this new way of working and have even become quite adept at recognising people’s contributions and acknowledging a job well done in new ways, such as using the emojis on Microsoft Teams.
Perhaps the most striking example of this is our new European Marketing Manager, Bethan Thompson, who joined Gallagher on 1 April, little over a week after lockdown was imposed in the UK. She has enjoyed the richest and most comprehensive introduction to the business from the safety of her own home armed with just a laptop and Teams.
What can be the benefits of having employees working from home?
There are many benefits of working remotely with productivity right up the top of the list. By reducing the unproductive time spent commuting and travelling to meetings, we are able to get much more done in a day. Add to this the reduction in stress and improved work-life balance and it makes for an impressive formula of happier, healthier and more motivated colleagues. And it’s still easy to measure results no matter where someone is working.
To be honest, before COVID, we didn’t disconnect enough, close the laptop, switch off our technology and allow ourselves NOT to respond instantly. But trust is an integral part of our culture at Gallagher and we can easily and effectively continue to champion the right balance and support for the team moving forward.
How can employees ensure they keep a healthy work/life balance?
Working from home can require some personal discipline around taking regular breaks and disconnecting from technology. I encourage all my colleagues to stay active and get regular exercise during the day. Taking time out allows you to process ideas with greater clarity, to be more creative, to plan your day and use your time more effectively – all of which is part of achieving that balance.
And it’s important that we do switch off and close our laptop at the end of the day, which requires some discipline when you work for a business headquartered in New Zealand, where they are 11 hours ahead.
It’s good to cultivate hobbies and welcome distractions that you are passionate about, to switch off from work more effectively. Personally, I love to be outside on a long dog walk with no technology. It’s liberating.
Are you seeing that businesses are already beginning to think differently about their security?
We have to remember why security is important. We all have a different view on how we should maintain business continuity. Yes, properties need a reliable detection and defence solution to resist the opportunist. With the mass migration to work remotely, business leaders are concerned that their IT systems are vulnerable to attack and we read daily about the growth in cyberattacks. It’s common sense to protect your business with a suitable access control and intrusion detection system and the pandemic has proven to businesses the value of being truly resilient and able to still operate whatever circumstances ensue.
What will be the biggest security challenges facing businesses over the next six months?
In that timeframe, I don’t see us returning to how things were prior to the pandemic, so businesses will have to adapt to a new normal. We will have to adopt a more holistic view of security, encompassing safety, security and wellbeing, with our teams at the heart of that. In the new world, how can we maintain our teams’ safety at home, or limit them to certain floor space or introduce rotas for office attendance and keep surfaces virus free while they’re there? We need to be alert to where the next threat will come from and mitigate risk against both cyber and biological threat as we’ve seen a virus in either domain can be devastating.
How is Gallagher meeting the evolving demands of the market?
To be honest, Gallagher has always been ahead of the curve. We’ve been talking about competencies, compliance and resilience for decades, long before cyber became the buzzword. Everything we do is related to business resilience and continuity and security is baked in to our products and solutions at source, providing confidence and reliability for all of our customers.