The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how our offices operate.
In some offices, the changes have been drastic, with employees abruptly transitioning to a fully work-from-home culture or having to adapt to (and enforce) a ton of new safety protocols at work.
Some COVID-19-inspired policies have gradually been relaxed as we’ve learned more about how to prevent the spread of the virus. For example, people may work together in person as long as they’re wearing masks and staying socially distanced, and office staff may have eased up on the disinfection practices a bit now that we know that COVID-19 spreads mostly through airborne respiratory droplets.
However, many employers are still embracing more flexible employee work schedules and work-from-home policies than they have in the past. And, as we wrote in our post on the evolving role of the receptionist in a post-pandemic world, some offices may have chosen to restructure the front office to remove the reception desk.
These kinds of pandemic-induced changes typically have come with both unexpected benefits and challenges. One of those challenges is a potential increase in security risks — unless you actively plan for them.
If your office has adjusted to the demands COVID-19 with more flexible employee schedules or a lobby restructuring, you may need to devote some attention to security in the following ways.
Reassess How You Screen and Track Visitors
Keeping track of visitors has always been a good idea for security. Offices that strangers can simply wander into are obviously at greater risk of corporate espionage and other dangers.
When visitors are officially checked in and ideally given visitor credentials (such as a badge), it’s a signal to the rest of the staff that each person they see is supposed to be there.
Plus, keeping a record of who visits your office can be important for legal documentation and insurance purposes, and understanding how visitors flow in and out of your lobby is helpful for administrative planning purposes.
So, if you’ve removed the front desk or the front desk staff from the lobby to make more room for guests to spread out or to keep everyone a bit safer from airborne germs, you need to make sure there’s still a way to monitor who comes in and out.
In most cases, a standalone kiosk equipped with a sign-in tablet can perform this task quite well. You may also need to redesign your lobby or at least rearrange some furniture to discourage people from wandering pask the sign-in kiosk without checking in first.
Reassess Office Access Control Methods (Employee Keys)
If your office is like many, just a handful of select employees have the physical keys that are necessary to fully open the office for the business day and close at the end of the day.
However, if managers have started staggering employees’ shifts or transitioning the office into a more flexible space where employees can come and go as they please, it may be time to reassess the office access control strategy.
If the office still relies on old-fashioned metal keys to control access to the office, managers may find that new schedules make the process of managing access much more complicated. They’ll need to be more diligent about tracking which employees have keys and collecting them from departing employees, for one. And it’s much easier for a key to get lost or copied, which can put your physical security at risk.
Employees’ shifting hours might present a good opportunity to invest in a new access control system that makes it easy to revoke access for anyone who no longer needs it, makes it more convenient for employees to come and go, and even keeps records of how the office is accessed that can be helpful for administrative purposes.
As we discussed in our post on How to Evaluate Office Door Lock Options, office managers can choose from among locks and access systems that rely on keycards, passcodes, or biometric markers. Some of the latest lock systems even let employees open office doors using an app on their personal smartphones.
Beyond hardware, managers should need to adjust policies that clarify which times of day the office will be accessible. (If employees can let themselves in, what’s stopping them from trying to work in the office at midnight, for example?) Managers may also need to re-think whether they need to secure specific parts of the office (such as the server room or other areas with sensitive data) when the office will be mostly empty.
Reassess Surveillance and Visibility to Accommodate New Schedules
Extending office hours for even a few hours in the shorter months of the year (wintertime in the U.S.) can mean that your employees will be more likely to be coming and going in total darkness or completely alone.
To boost safety and security, it may be necessary to accommodate those new schedules with additional lighting and surveillance.
If employees will be more likely to be entering and leaving the office when it’s mostly empty, this can help them feel more safe and encourage them to use the office whenever it works best for them, whether that’s earlier in the morning or later at night.Don’t make employees walk in and out of your office alone in the dark. Boost safety and security at the office with additional lighting and surveillance. Click To Tweet
Clarify New Employee Responsibilities
If you do make changes in schedules, equipment, or procedures to boost office security, tell employees what’s changed and what they need to do to keep the office secure.
Here are things you might need to clarify, based on what has changed:
- Who is responsible for officially opening and closing the office
- The specific procedures for opening and closing, such as turning off lights and activating the security alarm
- Any hours that the office is off-limits
- Any parts of the office that are off-limits during non-peak hours
- The procedure for issuing office access to new employees and contractors
- The procedures for revoking office access for former employees
- What employees should do if they see a visitor in the office who has not officially checked in
- The official policy on visitors, especially regarding any changes related to the new hours or the new sign-in process
With visitor management programs like The Receptionist for iPad, administrators can use a digital tool to manage all visitor procedures and data. Administrators can access a single portal to analyze visitor data from multiple buildings, entrances, and locations. Plus, the tablet-based sign-in system impresses visitors and makes administrators’ lives much easier.
Head over to our site to learn more about The Receptionist visitor management system. Our visitor check-in app is top-ranked on sites like Capterra and G2, and we offer a free 14-day trial (with no credit card required) for new users.
For more on building management and security, check out these posts:
- How to Manage Security for Multi-Tenant Buildings
- Prioritize Coworking Space Security — But Still Keep Things Fun
- Office Security Cameras: The Role They Should Play in Your Workplace
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