Recent research from Cushman & Wakefield predicted that most office workers globally would return to offices in the first quarter of 2022. But that doesn’t mean every day—or the same days. Gartner studies indicate that almost half of employees will continue to work remotely post pandemic at least part of the time. The world is now looking at a hybrid in-office experience; one that will be very different from before. Global office utilization data shows that use of collaborative spaces increased by 50% last year, with spaces transformed for staff staggering and flexible models.
During the pandemic, physical security rapidly evolved from being seen as a tool for mitigating risk to playing a much more significant role in organizations’ digital transformation. In a recent survey of over 2,000 security professionals conducted by Genetec, more than two-thirds (69%) of respondents described physical security and related data as “mission-critical.”
Organizations are increasingly using the data gathered by physical security systems they already have—not only to control access and monitor their spaces, but also to optimize space, improve business efficiency, comply with public health requirements and come up with new standard operating procedures (SOPs) to meet the changing needs of the hybrid workplace.
Organizations have been tapping their existing video management systems (VMS) and access control systems (ACS) to gain insights into how real estate is being utilized. People-count data from ACS is also helping companies ensure compliance with government occupancy regulations as well as industry- and facility-specific guidelines for maximum thresholds.
The need for these insights drove innovations that enable visualization of people-count data, along with the ability to send alerts when occupancy limits are reached, and produce reports to demonstrate compliance with local measures, all from within a unified security system.
When aggregated and analyzed along with visual data from VMS, ACS data is incredibly useful in managing office spaces that vary in their usage and occupancy from day to day. Working with pre-set thresholds, office management solutions can determine how frequently an individual comes into the office and how long they stay. This data presented visually on a dashboard with clear metrics provides an accurate picture of how facilities are being used, which can help determine an optimal footprint going forward.
For example, an office management solution could compare how many employees are coming into work on different days as well as determine peak days on different floors. With these insights, organizations can determine how many employees require permanent or shared desks to make informed decisions about how much space they actually need.
Organizations can also use ACS data to quickly change and automate SOPs to help control how people move through facilities as guidelines evolve, often, rapidly. A collaborative decision management system makes it easy to update SOPs for an individual facility or an entire organization, reducing the need for constant training and ensuring compliance as the system guides operators through new processes.
More advanced systems can also allow an organization to automate workflows. For example, using access control data, a system could automatically alert personnel that shared spaces in a specific area need to be cleaned in response to changing occupancy levels.
Ultimately, the goal of managing newly configured spaces and SOPs is to improve the employee experience, ensuring the company culture is front and center and fostering collaboration and socialization while remaining safe and compliant.
Traditional access control systems aren’t designed for the flexibility organizations require today, as employees and visitors move through buildings and spaces in new ways. Changes in access and temporary access requests, new employee credentials and most access control tasks typically need to be done manually, which can bog down the flow of people through spaces and feel burdensome to employees.
To address the need for speed, organizations are turning to asset access management systems. Instead of manually managing individual cardholders or changing access to specific areas, these systems allow organizations to control decision-making by assigning rights based on roles, attributes, departments or other conditions—and changing which groups can access which areas quickly and easily. Employees can also easily schedule visitor appointments and use a self-service kiosk for guests upon arrival.
Since smarter physical access management systems also enable operators to manage them remotely, they streamline administration and reduce staff workload. When new hires are onboarded or employees change jobs, policies can be configured to ensure an automatic provisioning of access rights based on department, location, job title, seniority, etc.
These systems help automate some processes so transitions happen more smoothly and can enhance security by making sure there is a clear record of access control changes. It can also simplify the process of preparing for access audits.
It’s important to remember that while data from physical security systems can provide valuable insight for optimizing office facilities, organizations must also pay close attention to data privacy. Solutions developed with privacy in mind can help organizations continue to protect individuals in the hybrid workplace, and organizations should ensure that their suppliers and partners are equally committed to protecting personal data.
As companies embark on a new return-to-office wave based on more flexible spaces and digital transformation, they are looking at physical security systems differently. Beyond protecting people and assets, VMS and ACS can help optimize space, improve business efficiency, comply with public health requirements and inform procedures as the workplace continues to evolve.
About the Author:
Despina Stamatelos is Commercial Sr. Manager, Access Control, at Genetec, Inc. A marketing professional of 15 years, Despina is responsible for the go-to market strategy, messaging and positioning of Genetec access control, physical identity, and access management solutions across regions and channels.
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