Return to work strategy puts existing security to new uses

Chicago, Il

It is clear the COVID-19 global health crisis will forever change our global workforce, both in terms of the way we manage brick and mortar locations as well as human capital. One of the most complex normalisations of our lifetime will be labour forces returning to non-remote work once the peak of the pandemic has passed.  Convergint has proposed a 4 step strategy using security technology to manage the transition back to working in group spaces, and says that in many instances the technology currently installed in these places can help with this upcoming phase.

COVID-19 will undoubtedly change how facilities are run in the future, and the new normal will start with that return-to-work process. Return-to-work procedures will be different for different types of sites and employees. Existing systems, as well as system enhancements, can be leveraged with some reprogramming to meet return-to-work requirements. Convergint proposes that there are four major elements to consider for managing a smooth transition and his formulated these into a comprehensive roadmap.

Four Step roadmap

Companies need to create a holistic strategy by considering these four areas and making an action plan for each of them:

1. Facilities & People
A team will need to be formed to classify resources and develop a plan to identify the people, facilities, and property that need to be protected.  Certain sites will be more complex than others and each will have their own specific approach and needs.  For example this might include residential and non-residential areas of office buildings, high density residential buidings such as university campuses, retirement homes and hospitals. 

Non-residential contained office buildings

These locations are easier to control access, particularly those whose who are occupied during conventional office hours. Since these locations often have a primary entry point with multiple others, overall screening of the returning workforce will have some challenges, and access control strategies will have mild to moderate changes needed.

Non-residential campus or multi-office buildings

Customers with campuses or office parks will experience enhanced challenges controlling perimeter security and general access, particularly those with no fencing. Some facilities will have further difficulty vetting incoming traffic if there are multi-lane entrances, or unguarded (by person or technology) entrances with free location access. Universities and office parks will fall into this category. These kind of sites will need to distribute campus-wide or park-wide mandates to their communities calling for essential personnel in the beginning, and then later expand the number of occupants as allowed by local guidelines.

High density residential buildings

Specifically, most universities have residential living areas that have vacated their premises with few exceptions. Anecdotally, retirement homes and hospitals will never displace their residents unless of a large-scale disaster permits the continued use of the facility. Because of the residential person-type, these operations will have the most challenging to control access and will have 24-hour operations. Critical facilities that fall in this category will need added measures to screen both visitors and employees entering the facility. Visitor Management Systems will become a key in tracking who has visited and when gathering important data in the event someone needs to be contacted after the visit based on exposure.


In terms of people, essential personnel may have changed and evolved over the course of the last few weeks and Convergint recommends a return to work committee is formed which should include a representative of all stake holders . Classifying employees will help with the transition of trickling individuals back into work.  For example, executive management, the leadership of the organisation, are critical to making decisions for the business and may require extra protection in order to perform at full capacity. Essential employees may need to be physically present to carry on their work, where on the other hand non-essential workers may be able to continue to work from home remotely. Then there are contractors, visitors, residents and support-residents to consider.

2. Policies & Procedures

The upcoming transition will require interim policies and procedures in order to adapt to each organization’s particular challenges through this time. These policies will need to be responsive to the dynamic situation and communicated out as the situation evolves. Just some of the tasks involved will be to create a cadence to aggregate and analyse return-to-work information; perform a risk assessment and a gap analysis for each facility; execute a safety plan based on risk assessment and mitigation; establish communication protocols; evaluate cyber hardening policies; incorporation of business continuinty planning and compliance issues.

3. System Adaptation 

There maybe a number of existing technology solutions that can be leveraged to manage this transition to the new normal as smoothly as possible. They can provide both valuable insight and automate processes in a way to maximize efficiency and safety during this time.  Areas to consider will include: Access Control; Video Surveillance; Intrusion Alarm; Visitor Management; Video Intercom; Entrance Management; Mass Notification; Biometric Solutions; Cyber Security Solutions.

Existing systems can be leveraged in new ways to adapt to the dynamic environment. They must also be re-evaluated and re-progammed in order to ensure transitional policies and procedures are being instituted. For example, they could be used to ensure full coverage and protection for critical areas, to enable a new building entrance strategy, to implement a device audit and life-cycle management programme to ensure high reliability; and to re-verify personnel, support staff, and contractors within all technology systems, amongst other things.

4. Future Technology

Companies should explore advanced solutions for novel challenges. Convergint suggests, that there are many different technology solutions that can be leveraged as a way to navigate not only the transition to working in shared spaces once again, but also to streamline business operations in what will become “the new normal” environment.

Some of the areas that could be explored include new visitor management solutions that might include mobile credential readers, or touchless access control systems,  added intercoms for remote entry and screening, dual-authentication access cards, automated texting and email alert systems, thermal entrance detection systems and new turnstiles and entrance systems.


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