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Q&A: Visitor management essential for a safe return to the office (Includes interview)

When offices closed their doors to workers in March, they had little insight into when it would be safe to return. As many companies enter their eighth month of working from home, employees are beginning to feel burnt out, desiring to return to the office and establish some sense of normalcy. But with the pandemic still presenting serious health scares, how can organizations ensure their employees are safe when they re-enter their doors?

The answer may be with a visitor management system. Technologically-driven, this form of digital solution will issue mobile visitor passes for building guests that incorporate security limitations and access for non-tenants; validate guests completed the necessary health checks before accessing the property (such as temperature checks and COVID risk assessments); and issue mobile corporate IDs which allow building employees to use their mobile devices to access specific doors within their building and networks, limiting the need for physical card issuance

To understand more about the possibilities, Digital Journal spoke with Martin Hoff, Product Marketing Manager at cybersecurity firm Entrust.

Digital Journal: What are the main workplace risks during the coronavirus pandemic?

Martin Hoff: The overall health and safety of employees is top-of-mind for all businesses right now. The move to remote work in March helped curb the risk of spreading COVID-19 within the workplace but opened the door for increased security risks — especially for companies with employees who’ve never worked outside of the office setting.

Our 2020 survey on remote work cybersecurity found that 36 percent of employees use one or more personal devices to access company files while working from home during the pandemic. Additionally, more than one-quarter (29%) of those using one or more personal devices to work share that device with other members of their household. Further, 34 percent of employees admit to digitally capturing their passwords in an application on a smartphone (e.g. Word, Notes, Google Docs) and 19 percent use the same passwords across multiple work systems.

With an increase in cyber attacks amid the pandemic, businesses were forced to rethink how they protect their employees and assets off-premises. We found businesses — across all industries — coming to us to improve their authentication protocols. The risk of getting authentication wrong is huge because the vast majority of today’s breaches are due to compromised credentials.
To reduce this risk, companies are authenticating and securing workers’ digital identities no matter where they’re located. That means deploying high-assurance cloud-based authentication, which uses multiple authenticators like one-time passwords, phone biometrics and smart cards to ensure corporate assets and the digital identities of workers and customers are protected at all times.

DJ: What measures can employers put in place in terms of general design to protect employees?

Hoff: While many companies continue to work remotely, some are slowly opening their offices to employees and will be looking for contactless solutions that can help keep them safe. For example, issuing mobile corporate IDs allows employees to use their personal devices to access specific doors within their building, reducing the spread of germs on surfaces like door handles. The move to mobile also allows companies to quickly, and widely, create security rules for building visitors so they can only access specified areas.

In terms of design, eventually, buildings will implement fully app-based contactless experiences eliminating the need for unnecessary interaction between building occupants.

DJ: What does a good risk assessment look like?

Hoff: An effective risk assessment will take a thorough look at a workplace and analyze any potential hazards, prioritizing which of those pose the most threat. Once risks are determined, measurements should be put in place to prevent the risk from occurring.

In the case of reopening offices amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a proper risk assessment should identify areas that employees could be at risk of contracting the virus, and proactively reduce these risks. For example, assessing the risk of contracting COVID-19 from a door handle and implementing contactless door access as a solution. Or, limiting access to certain areas of a building to avoid overcrowding.

DJ: What types of communications can help to reassure returning workers?

Hoff: It’s essential that building management and respective business leaders outline clear expectations for reopening to ensure employees are aligned from every touchpoint. This may mean updating employee handbooks or explicitly explaining and enforcing new policies that address the current health and safety measures being taken in the building.

Over-communicating is key during this time, as many employees may have questions and concerns regarding their own personal experiences. A company newsletter is a great way to address questions and remind employees of the guidelines for reopening, as well as town halls and informative social media posts. Clear, physical signs within the office that reiterate social distancing and ways to minimize the spread of COVID-19 are also crucial to reassure workers that their employers are doing everything to protect their overall health and safety.

DJ: What is the best way to control and handle visitors?

Hoff: The best way to control and handle visitors is by implementing a modernized visitor management system that will incorporate a variety of factors to ensure building occupants are kept safe on a daily basis. A modernized visitor management system will not only monitor and control who comes and goes in the building but will be able to assess COVID-19 risks by validating whether guests have completed the necessary health checks before accessing the property.

Further, the system will issue non-tenants mobile visitor passes that seamlessly incorporates security and access limitations.

DJ: What does a modernized visitor management system look like?

Hoff: To go into more detail, a modernized visitor management system will issue a mobile “badge” to visitors upon entering the building. The mobile badges will only last a certain period of time before expiring in order to control what visitors can access in their allotted amount of time on the property.

Most importantly, this system will be able to validate health checks on those entering the office by ensuring proper building safety protocols are followed before granting access. For example, making sure temperature checks and appropriate questionnaires are completed.

The most innovative systems will incorporate contact tracing data which is imperative for limiting the spread of the virus and safely reopening offices.

DJ: What types of technology can deliver such a system?

Hoff: Secure access technology such as our cloud-based Entrust Adaptive Issuance Visitor Management as a Service solution can address today’s complex visitor management processes that traditional pen and paper sign-in procedures can’t handle. As offices continue to become decentralized with locations that span multiple cities, it’s imperative to adopt a system that’s dynamic and secure. A cloud-based solution enables a streamlined experience for visitors and hosts, allowing businesses to secure their facilities and personnel from anywhere.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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