You can find a receptionist fronting most businesses – greeting clients, answering phones, handling administrative tasks, and more. They also have a lesser-known, but equally important role in security.

As the first line of defense, receptionists have a unique duty to both make visitors feel welcome and sound the alarm if anything is abnormal. Let’s take a look at the receptionist’s role in security and how employers can support them best.

How Do Receptionists Aid in Security?

When you enter most buildings, you’re immediately greeted by the receptionist’s desk. Receptionists are in charge of each visitor’s first impression – whether they’re a normal client or a potential threat.

As such, receptionists hold a lot of power when it comes to security.

Here are all the ways they play a role:

  • Signing in visitors
  • Controlling access to various parts of the building
  • Issuing visitor badges
  • Noticing and reporting suspicious activity
  • Handling money and valuables
  • Managing incoming and outgoing packages
  • Understanding and acting on emergency plans when needed

It’s worth noting that the very presence and behavior of a receptionist can detract from potential threats. Someone who enters with poor intentions may decide to back out when they’re immediately greeted by a receptionist.

As such, a receptionist may not even get to later stages of security, like sign-in and badges. Simply showcasing that they are present and attentive can be an act of security in itself.

How Can We Help Receptionists Support Security Efforts?

While the receptionist isn’t a formal member of the security team, it’s important that we give them proper tools and clearances to aid in the safety of the office.

The average person may not understand how much a receptionist can impact security, so clearly and properly defining security tasks within the job description is key for successful job performance. Noting their exact security responsibilities and how they can interact with the security team will help make the entire process smooth.

If packages and letters and delivered to the receptionist, they’ll also need adequate training on recognizing and properly handling suspicious mail. Meanwhile, having set visitor control procedures established with everyone in the office can aid in overall security.

Additionally, receptionists need formal security training. We cannot expect them to notice suspicious behavior if they’ve never seen it before. Offering this type of training can help them identify verbal techniques to handle security situations and understand how and when to escalate a situation.

Of course, receptionists also need to have a certain welcoming demeanor and appearance. This helps with making normal visitors feel comfortable, but it also lends itself to dealing with conflict.

For example, people who are great at the administrative side of reception work may not do well in working with people, which could cause them to struggle with the security portion of the role. Plus, people-oriented employees understand that the focus of the receptionist’s job is to greet visitors rather than focus on secondary tasks. Being able to immediately stop mid-task and greet clients can add another layer of security protection.

Finally, there are several ways employers can set up the receptionist for success. This includes designing the lobby so that a barrier wall separates the public area of the office from the private areas.

An office with this design ensures that the receptionist isn’t the only blockage for intruders entering the building. A panic alarm at the receptionist’s desk can also offer quick help in an emergency situation.

If you’re ready to take your security to the next level, Building Security Services can help. We offer security guard patrol services as well as security systems. Contact us or request a quote to get started!

Joseph Ferdinando is the founder of Building Security Services, a company that provides security solutions to businesses and organizations. He has more than 40 years of experience in the security industry, and he is a recognized expert in the field. Joseph is also a member of Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), where he's held position of Director on the Board of Directors in both the New York and new Jersey chapters.