Smarter and Stronger
Enhanced visitor management for a post-COVID world
- By Martha Howlett
- Sep 29, 2021
In the past year and a half, the Coronavirus pandemic has proven to be a continuing challenge for the security industry as well as the workplace in general. Many organizations have had to rethink their approach to creating a secure environment for staff, employees, and visitors. These new considerations have a simple goal: protect, manage, and monitor all staff entering and exiting the facility. The need for contactless interactions between visitor and facility have brought about some exciting and innovative solutions to emerging problems in visitor management.
The slowing, but still present, problem of Coronavirus has ensured that this kind of protection is no longer optional, but mandatory in keeping businesses alive and thriving. However, as the world returns to normal, it is clear that certain adaptations are here to stay.
The world has moved on from visual/physical inspection of visitors and guests' credentials. Increasingly, it is rare to ask to provide physical identification by a receptionist. Not only does this pose issues of human error, but it also poses health risks and concerns for both parties and the entire building. Since the pandemic began, the world has had to adapt to contact-free methods of everything from grocery shopping to using a public restroom.
In the case of manual sign-in points, the public are now naturally wary of handling a common use pen to sign a paper visitor log, even with sanitization. Likewise, handing identification over to a person who has also handled hundreds of other visitors’ credentials is no longer a safe or acceptable option.
Visitor management systems must now incorporate a cohesive and contactless visitor experience, prioritizing safety and health. In multi-tenant office buildings, for example, employing one receptionist to occupy a front desk for multiple companies in a building is expensive and can force building owners to allow free ingress into the building, which is an obvious security and health threat.
This problem could be solved by the effective implementation of a visitor management system, which would automatically read a visitors credential, such as a driver's license, confirm the information on a pre-authorization list, notify the host company/person, and print a temporary ID badge. Particularly in post-pandemic society, the use of QR codes has become commonplace for visitor check-ins. QR codes offer pre-registration and self-certification surveys to further speed up the signing in process, ensuring minimal congestion in reception areas and therefore minimizing the risk of transmission via lack of social distancing.
Integrating these systems with access control would make it impossible for a visitor to progress through the building without interacting with the sign-in system. Necessitating the need for a unique ID badge or other credential adds another layer of security while also ensuring minimal contact with doors/handles/buttons etc.
Visitor management systems also offer a reliable and clean data storage solution to visitor records. Paper logs can be lost, stolen, or damaged very easily, posing a significant risk to security. They can be easily bypassed or forgotten, meaning that potentially dangerous people could access the facility; this is especially of concern in laboratories and factories where expensive equipment is stored and sensitive data might be stolen.
Digital visitor management not only prevents expensive and dangerous accidents, theft and loss, but also allows for accurate track and trace information to be collated. Therefore, in the event of an outbreak in the building, all visitors and staff can be cross-referenced and easily contacted before the outbreak gets a chance to spread throughout the building.
These systems allow one-way routes to be put in place and used. Visitors can pose a threat to employees, both in terms of safety and in terms of health. With a visitor management system, a visitor can be given an access card that only allows them ingress and egress through certain doors and even in certain directions, ensuring that any one-way systems that are in place to protect employees are adhered to.
For example, a system integrated with thermal scanning could require temperature reading from all visitors. If the temperature is above a safe level, denied access for a set amount of time and a text message or email sent to a person of responsibility. Alternatively, that person would go through a ‘COVID Route’, whereby, if it were still necessary for them to enter, they would be directed through the building via a route that ensured no one else came into personal contact with that individual.
It is clear that previous solutions to visitor management are not only outdated in an ever-more digital world, but also present health risks to all, not to mention potential revenue problems. An outbreak in a facility can shut it down entirely for up to two weeks, which is of course a monetary concern for businesses. Previously, it was common for a receptionist to provide visitors with multiple pre-programmed proximity cards to hand out to visitors at will.
This presents potentially catastrophic security risks, as these cards can be stolen or misused. Further, as there is typically no record of who has a specific card, if a visitor neglects to return their card, they then have complete access to the facility without the company knowing who they are. With comprehensive digital visitor management, there is no risk of illegible writing on visitor logs, missing information, lost files, or time consuming sign-in processes. Instead, an adopted streamlined, safe approach that is both COVID-compliant, highly secure and creates a positive first impression on all those entering a facility.
This article originally appeared in the September / October 2021 issue of Security Today.