coworkers in office with masks

As landlords and employers prepare for staff returning to the office, there are ongoing discussions and collaborations between all operational departments (engineering, facilities, security, cleaning) as well as C-Suite, finance, human resources and the legal department.

Since there is no clear path or historical reference to follow, each company is gathering industry and government recommendations and then adapting them to their industry and circumstances. Effective leaders that are navigating and adapting the workplace to the post-COVID environment requires extensive operational, medical and legal research coupled with proactive decision making.

As an example, per John J. Farrell Jr., Manager of the newly built World Trade Center and Chair of BOMA NY‘s Preparedness Committee, “They are utilizing a multipronged approach to bring their staff back to their offices in lower Manhattan. Additional, operational policies are tailored to each industry since there is no one glove fits all.”

The protocols include:

  • Social separation in the office
  • Markers on the floor
  • Public announcement reminders
  • Allowing certain employees to continue to work from home
  • Having employees answer a daily online health screening questionnaire prior to entering the building
  • Supplying thermometers to employees
  • Following all CDC guidelines including the wearing of masks
  • Enhanced high touch cleaning protocols
  • Alloying the use of internal staircases in lieu of elevators for inter-floor travel
  • Outside visitors allowed in offices after answering 3 heath questions and having their temperature checked

They are also continually researching the latest technology advances, including air filtration, that can improve their operations. They are fortunate to be housed in a new facility that already had touchless turnstiles and a destination dispatch elevator system.

According to Joseph Galasso, an Independent Security Consultant who works with Advanced Electronic Solutions (AES) and Risk Assistance Network + Exchange (RANE) in NYC, “Landlords and employers are exploring the implementation of touchless access control systems.” These are a few benefits:

  • Alleviates some of the fear of returning to the office
  • Demonstrates the employer/landlord is pro-active
  • Responsiveness to employee/employer concerns

There are many tech companies trying to adapt their applications to benefit a post-COVID office environment in the area of security, access control, and visitor management. This includes new mobile apps that track distances between individuals throughout a facility, employee tracing for social distancing purposes, addressing safety and liability concerns and even code compliance.

The CDC Guidance for office buildings does not weigh in on modifications to access control systems so landlords and employers need to perform their own due diligence to ensure any new access control applications they consider take into account:

  • Brand reputation
  • Applicability to the facility
  • Compatibility with existing hardware/software
  • On-premises vs. cloud-based applications
  • Ease of rolling out to tenants
  • Requirements to revise existing protocols/handbooks/post orders
  • References from existing clients
  • Local support team
  • Availability of a live demo
  • Pilot program at one location
  • Scalability
  • Cost/benefit analysis
  • Timeline for implementation

Managers are under a great deal of pressure to ensure occupants safe return to their offices but circumventing the normal due diligence for an application that is not tried and true can be a costly mistakes.

For touchless access control at existing card swipe turnstiles, some of the considerations for new applications should be given to (1) distance for activation, (2) bleed over to adjacent turnstiles (3) twist and go vs. phone inside a jacket/handbag.

I personally believe that prior to implementing any new applications, facilities should ensure transparency in their communications and intentions to all occupants. In some cases tenants will likely take on some of the burdens and in other cases look to the landlord for support and guidance. It is apparent that being flexible and adaptive to employer and employee questions and concerns is critical to making the return to the workplace a positive one for everyone involved in the process.

When researching a new access control application in the post-COVID environment, customization per employee will be a critical factor to monitor the number of employees in your premises including the areas they have access to and the hours in which they can access the space. Another important factor for operations and liability concerns is the reporting capabilities of the application. Genea’s cloud-based access control can generate reports for HIPAA and SOC compliance, and it also allows you to consolidate security across multiple locations.

For additional information regarding Genea’s Access Control application, schedule a demo below! Additionally, if you missed their webinar on Touchless Access Control for the Modern Building, you can watch a recording here.

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