Together with our partners, security consultancy Trisat, we’ve been developing resources to help organisations implement better travel safety policies. In the process we’ve noticed that one topic comes up more than any other in this area: the importance of situational awareness.
Situational awareness is the skill of monitoring your surroundings, so you can anticipate hazards and avoid them. It’s one of the most effective tools for safely navigating new or potentially dangerous situations.
In this article we’re sharing what we’ve learned about the value of situational awareness for business travellers. We’ve identified the five key aspects of business travel which make situational awareness vital. These five areas are also a useful starting point for HRs or travel managers looking at the issue.
1. Business travel involves work
Business travellers often continue to work while in transit—even if they’re just checking emails on their phone. The problem with this, from a safety and security perspective, is that work is absorbing.
Let’s say you check your email in the middle of a busy airport or train station. Initially you’re aware that you’re in a less-than-secure setting. But then you find a message which urgently requires your full attention. Now the chances are that you’ve lost all awareness of your surroundings. You might not even notice if someone picked up your laptop case and walked away with it.
Practising situational awareness helps you to establish how much attention you can safely give to your work.
2. Business travel takes you to unfamiliar environments
Business travel often provides an opportunity to explore new places. Work travel might take you to a foreign country, or to a new office or manufacturing facility.
Unfamiliar environments are inherently more hazardous than familiar ones, because as a visitor you haven’t internalised situationally appropriate behaviour. An environment like a factory floor might be perfectly safe to someone who knows the safety protocols, but life-threatening to someone who doesn’t.
A key part of the skill of situational awareness is establishing expectations for a new situation, and calmly assessing possible hazards.
3. Business travel takes you to familiar environments
Familiar environments can be hazardous too, for the most part because people naturally become inured to familiar hazards. If your commute takes you through a major hub station, you quickly become so used to this environment that it feels safe. The fact remains, however, that large transportation hubs are hotspots for crime.
Here, situational awareness helps by encouraging you to monitor your own awareness, and adjust it to a level appropriate for your location, even if you’ve developed bad habits.
4. Business travellers are potentially vulnerable
All travellers are vulnerable, especially if they’re in a new situation. Business travellers are especially vulnerable because they’re more likely to be alone than other travellers, and they’re often required to travel with expensive equipment, or in professional attire that might suggest wealth to onlooking thieves.
Situational awareness not only helps travellers to avoid hazards, but also to respond appropriately to threats.
5. Industry events are not always secure environments
A major reason for business travel is to attend conferences and exhibitions. These events have wildly differing levels of security, and less secure events are potentially hazardous. Situational awareness enables attendees to determine the security of a particular event, and adjust behaviour accordingly.
Situational awareness is a life skill, with broad applications. However, it’s especially useful to business travellers. We ourselves have benefited from researching situational awareness with Trisat. So we’re very excited to help organisations train their people to use this invaluable skillset. Training in situational awareness can improve wellbeing, prevent equipment and data theft, and in rare circumstances even save lives.
About the author
Rory is the Head of Content at Real Projects. He strives to place employee wellbeing at the heart of the company’s elearning offering.