The unprecedented global impact of COVID-19 has taken its toll on all of us, but as cases of the virus thankfully recede, employers are now forced to confront how they can enable a safe return to work for employees. For many employers, this means they will have to carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment, redesign workspaces to maintain social distances, carry out more frequent cleaning, manage the transmission risk and find alternatives to touch-based security devices.

Protecting workplace occupants in any emergency requires preparation and clear communication. This is especially critical in a health crisis involving an infectious disease. These are some of the essential best practices that could help organizations reduce the impact on their employees and operations during this pandemic.

1. Use a visitor management system

With a visitor management system, organizations have a single source of real-time and historical insights into who is, or was recently, in the workplace. This is especially important because of the need to perform contact tracing should anyone in the organization show symptoms of COVID-19, meaning everyone they have been in contact with needs to be contacted and asked to isolate. Yet still, first impressions are made at the front desk or lobby, where the visitor experience needs to be a positive one. At the same time, though, any emergency event requires that there be strict control over who is entering the workplace. This policy also needs to be clearly communicated to visitors. Doing this minimizes risk to visitors as well as the workforce. In addition to delivering a high-quality visitor experience, the ideal visitor management system must:

  • Enable organizations to meet regulatory compliance mandates and facilitate check-in at a self-service kiosk to minimize wait times.
  • Customize the visitor experience to support specific security needs, such as accelerating and simplifying check-in or requiring additional security pre-checks.
  • Automate compliance as it relates to visitor access rules with historical visit reports.

2. Pre-check questions at visitor registration kiosks

Organizations can strengthen security at the registration kiosk using a flexible, enterprise-grade visitor management system to add visitor sign-in steps. This has proven successful in the past when used to control the spread of infectious disease during an outbreak. An example of this is a U.S. children's hospital which managed to reduce facility infection rates by 25 percent over a two-year period using a commercial, off-the-shelf physical identity and access management (PIAM) solution from HID Global. The solution provides two particularly important capabilities that can be used by organizations to protect their workplace from the uncontrolled spread of an infectious disease:

  • Enhance visitor registration policy with additional mandatory questions to help identify any visitors who may need other screenings.
  • Extend the visitor registration kiosk with a mandatory pop-up asking further questions during visitor check-in.

3. Understand who has visited your workplace

Successful controlling the spread of infection throughout a facility requires the ability to automatically maintain an auditable trail of activity. This can be done using an enterprise-grade visitor management system that makes it easy to retrieve historical visit reports. This provides a timeline of who was in the workplace, and when they were there. Key features include:

  • A single dashboard providing useful visitor insights at your fingertips.
  • Historical reports that provide visitor details including location and contact information, all in compliance with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other privacy regulations.

4. Clearly communicate how infection risks can be reduced

Global organizations must actively communicate with visitors and employees on the outbreak of infectious diseases and follow best practices outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Here are several things organizations can do in this area to help maintain a safe and healthy workplace:

  • Re-enforce and communicate WHO best practices with guideline posters in the front lobby and throughout the workplace.
  • Add posters that also encourage regular and thorough washing of hands.
  • Encourage everyone to cough or sneese into their shirt sleeve in their flexed elbow or cover their mouth and nose with a tissue.
  • Encourage everyone to keep a relatively safe distance from each other and use alternatives to handshakes when saying hello.

Organizations must contend with a variety of workplace challenges during the outbreak of an infectious disease. These challenges can be solved with best practices that include a comprehensive visitor management system that automates critical check-in policies and maintains an auditable trail of visitor activity.  

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Ian Lowe Director, Product Marketing, Enterprise Physical Access Control, HID Global

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