Most businesses reach a point where they have to set limits on facility access.
Without a policy that dictates the specific conditions in which visitors are allowed into your facility — like what times of day they are welcome and which specific areas of the facility are off-limits — you introduce confusion and possible security threats. Unexpected visitors wandering through the office put your employees, visitors, and intellectual property at risk.
This is where a visitor access policy comes in. A visitor access policy documents and enforces when, where, and under what conditions non-employees can visit your office.
Some businesses that particularly sensitive security needs or hazardous equipment must build their visitor access policy very early on. Other businesses will start to feel the need for a visitor access policy more acutely as they grow and hire more employees, host more visitors, and attract more attention from the community.
Either way, if you feel that it’s time to build a visitor access policy for your office, here are some things that need to keep in mind.
Structuring Your Office Visitor Policies and Documents
First, let’s clarify that a visitor access policy is just one piece of a more comprehensive visitor policy and set of visitor-related documents that your staff will need to keep things running smoothly in the lobby or front office.
Here a few documents and processes you’ll need in your visitor policy.
A Master Visitor Policy – Your master visitor policy should be part of your employee handbook and explain everything employees must know about visitors in the office. A master visitor policy will usually cover things like:
- Visitor categories and check-in policies for each – Cover what needs to happen when certain types of visitors arrive and check in, what information will be collected and what they need to agree to. For example, you will need to identify different check-in requirements (and different access requirements) for vendors, part-time employees and contractors, and friends and family members of employees.
- Visitor notification protocols – This explains how hosts will be notified that their guests have arrived, and who exactly should be notified for each type of visitor.
- The visitor access policy – As we’ll discuss in more detail in this article, the access policy should include things like acceptable visiting hours and escort requirements within the building.
- Visitor data – Note which visitor data will be stored and how visitor records will be handled.
A Visitor Agreement – This is what certain office visitors (or certain types of visitors) must agree to before they enter your facility. These agreements should be looked over by a lawyer. They may include the following components:
- Non-disclosure agreements
- Liability waivers
- Photography or videography restrictions
- Visitors’ consent to have their personal information stored for easy check-in later or used for certain purposes, such as to contact them later or in the case of emergency
For more on visitor agreements, check out the post How to Craft an Effective Visitor Agreement and Which Mistakes to Avoid.
A List of Visitor Management Tasks and Assignments – Your office’s visitor management needs will change over time as your business changes. As employees leave the business and new ones start and the type and volume of office visits evolve, the office visitor policies should evolve, too. Clarifying who is in charge of keeping your visitor policies updated and doing the daily work required for quality visitor management will keep things running smoothly.
Now that you know where a visitor access policy fits into the bigger picture of office visitor management, let’s go over what an office access policy should actually include.
Identify Sensitive Areas and Assets
All good security efforts start with a risk/vulnerability assessment, and your access policy is no exception.
Deciding where in your office visitors will be permitted generally requires deciding which assets or areas are the most sensitive or vulnerable. Identify the areas in your facility that:
- Could draw the attention of potential criminals
- Would constitute potential privacy invasions if they were breached (intentionally or unintentionally)
- Could pose a potential hazard to visitors who aren’t familiar with your facility and equipment
Get input from key stakeholders and employees who are familiar with the entire facility and all of your operations as you identify these assets. This risk assessment will form the foundation of your access policy.
Keep in mind that many access control policies are put in place to protect all employees from violence and privacy invasions. For that reason, most access control measures will go into effect right at the front door, or just beyond the lobby area. However, some areas of the facility might be completely off limits to visitors.
Implement Access Restrictions
With a clearer idea of what and who you’re trying to protect within your office, you can decide which restrictions to put on visitor access. Here are a few of the most common restrictions that office admins use to regulate visitor access.
- Entry protocol – Most businesses have a single designated visitor entrance. Limiting other entry points makes it much easier to get visitors checked in properly and keep track of who is on site at any time. Employees should understand the importance of directing all visitors to the appropriate entrance (and not letting them in unauthorized entrances or propping open doors that are supposed to stay locked).
- Authorization process – Specify whether visitors will need any authentication. Visitor authentication could include verifying a visitor’s photo ID, for example, or simply checking with the host to make sure that the visit is expected. Determine which employees have the authority to authorize certain visitors, especially if the nature of their visit requires access to sensitive areas of the office.
- Visitor identification requirements – Visitor badges are a common security measure in many types of medium-sized and larger businesses. Badges help employees quickly see whether or not visitors have been officially checked in or not. As we wrote in our full post on visitor badge design, badges that display photo IDs and expiration dates will also help to make it more difficult for people to use fake or expired badges.
- Escort requirements – Your staff’s due diligence doesn’t stop when visitors pass through the lobby. Many offices choose to have all visitors escorted by their host or another employee throughout their entire visit, or at least through sensitive areas of the facility.
- Visitor hours – If your office allows employees to come in and out of the office outside of regular business hours, the visitor access policy should clarify that employees may not bring visitors on site outside of those mandated hours.
- Reporting and enforcement – The visitor access policy should also specify how employees will enforce access rules and what action they should take if they see something out of line, or a visitor in a restricted area. For example, what happens if employees notice a visitor in the office with no badge? Who should they notify if they notice that a fire door has been left propped open?
A strong visitor access policy, combined with other visitor management efforts, can go a long way toward keeping employees and assets secure and visitors safe.A strong visitor access policy can go a long way toward keeping your employees and assets secure and your visitors safe. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet
If you’re interested in learning more about putting formal processes in place to manage office visitors, reach out to us at The Receptionist for iPad. We pride ourselves on providing Radical Support™ for our visitor check-in system, and it has earned us top ratings on sites like Capterra and G2. We’re happy to help our clients as they structure visitor management processes and procedures. Please contact us today or request a personalized demo.
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