Exclusive: Getting back to business

April 7, 2021

Strategic Business Development Managers at Gallagher UK, Gordon Swallow and Steve Natton, highlight the power of access control.

Following what has undoubtedly been the most challenging year in decades, with a COVID-19 vaccine being rolled out across the UK, 2021 promises hope and a possible return to some normality.

With the UK government publishing its COVID-19 Response for Spring 2021, a roadmap out of the current lockdown for England, businesses are busy putting plans in place to support a safe return to work for employees.

For many, the thought of restrictions lifting and a return to ‘normal life’, causes concerns of a third wave, meaning the protection of people has never been more crucial. The safety of staff, customers, visitors and contractors is now at the forefront of business considerations more than ever before.

The power of access control

Traditional access control opens and closes doors – but today’s access control systems can do so much more. “They are actually safety control systems and people-management systems – not just a barrier with clever keys – a whole ecosystem that supports business continuity,” says Gordon Swallow, Strategic Business Development Manager for Gallagher Security.

As England opens again and the return to work gathers pace, employers are likely to look at implementing more controls across their workplaces. With the advent of shared office spaces, alternate working patterns and more staff adopting flexible working – a security system can boost support for employers who are increasingly interested in not just who enters their building, but how many, at what time, where are they working and who they are sharing that space with.

“We need to think about how we can use available access control technology to improve business continuity, employee health and safety and of course, security. The great news for organisations is that many of them already have this technology in place, so there won’t be the financial burden of having to invest in new technology at this difficult time. We are now starting to see business owners think differently about how they manage their workplace access, as the return to work becomes an achievable reality,” says Steve Natton, Strategic Business Development Manager for Gallagher.

“Anyone tasked with strategising the approach to opening post lockdown needs to start looking at their security systems in a new and different way. Shifting your view from one that sees access control as just a security system, to one that facilitates the control of people movement will greatly increase the opportunities you have to manage your site safely,” adds Gordon.

Many organisations are already familiar with putting an access control system at the heart of their strategy, but now is the time to really harness the benefits that an access control system can provide to enable businesses to reopen and maintain a safe and socially distanced environment for both staff and visitors.

Implement a secure contactless access environment

Organisations can make the switch to contactless access control systems, which provides a reliable way for businesses to minimise the risk of spreading COVID-19. Utilising biometric technology such as the Morphowave biometric reader, those on site can access areas while limiting physical touchpoints. Sites operating some fingerprint biometric systems can temporarily reconfigure the readers as card-only readers to also reduce surface contact.

Utilise mobile credentials

Businesses can also utilise remote provisioning of mobile credentials for those that require access to site, for example new starters and contractors, mitigating the health risks associated with physically handing over an access card.

Gordon acknowledges: “While the physical access card is fully established as the secure credential carrier of choice in the industry, the new need to have reduced contact points and increased social distancing may now be a real driver in looking at fully using mobile technology.

“Mobile credentials are securely provisioned via email from your access control server meaning staff don’t have to physically meet new starters or visitors to issue a card. Businesses can enforce second factor authentication at the door via the biometrics on the phone ensuring the device cannot be shared.”

Gallagher’s Mobile Connect Digital ID removes the cost and contact risk of issuing physical cards for ID cards, providing a digital, on-phone alternative, that can be issued remotely and securely. ID information can be updated in real time with multiple IDs across multiple sites being able to be stored on the one app.

Manage visitors from afar

“Clearly businesses need to look after their staff, but they also must ensure the safety of their visitors,” says Steve. “Issuing mobile credentials isn’t just limited to employees, contact between a receptionist and external visitor can be minimised by issuing mobile credentials before they arrive – again, removing the potential contamination risk that comes from physical cards.”

Gallagher’s integrated Visitor Management System simplifies reception tasks and ensures the smooth processing of visitors upon arrival, with the ability to let visitors know exactly what to expect when they arrive on site, carry out pre-registration checks to capture details and request proof of a negative COVID-19 test result if required.

Additionally, a comprehensive audit trail of all visitor management events means businesses can easily pull reports on who was where, when and with whom, providing assurance that their site remains secure.

Create an environment for social distancing

By 21 June, the UK government hopes to be able to remove all legal limits on social contact. Until then, current government restrictions on social distancing make it essential to monitor and limit the number of people in any one area.

“As the pandemic has evolved, we have learnt how to adapt to our new environment, but social distancing is and will still be seen, as vital. Putting new occupation limits in areas or zones within your building will help promote this continued behaviour and provide an environment that helps people follow guidelines,” says Gordon.

“Look at how your access control system can keep track of people-in-zone counts to actively allow or deny access as a building is used. At the point of access denial, it should also be possible to alert an individual as to why this has happened. This simple communication provides a reassuring explanation for the individual and contributes to an overall feeling of safety and security,” Gordon adds.

Businesses can ensure social distancing with zone counting integrations. By utilising the Zone Counting integration in Gallagher’s security software, Command Centre, limits can be set on the number of people able to access a specific area at any time – alerts can be sent if the number gets too high or access can be denied if the zone is at capacity. Breakrooms, kitchens, meeting rooms, or other areas where people congregate can be configured to ensure they do not become crowded places and physical distancing can be monitored seamlessly.

Communicate so employees are informed and reassured

In May 2020, a survey conducted by YouGov for the CIPD showed that more than two-fifths of UK workers were anxious about the prospect of returning to the workplace following the coronavirus outbreak.

“While many people will be excited to return to the office, after a year of working from home, we can assume that many will also be feeling anxious about the prospect because of the health risks posed by COVID-19,” says Gordon.

“So, while it’s important to put the right systems in place to safely bring people back to the office, it’s equally as important to inform your staff about what you are doing and to learn and adapt from each person’s experience.

“With the current situation changing rapidly, it is crucial to keep staff updated with important information and to ensure they receive communications promptly. This has become a challenge for many workplaces with staff working remotely from home, or the business not operating at all.”

Businesses can keep on-site and remote-based staff informed of critical information via email, text message (SMS), or the Gallagher Mobile Connect app with Gallagher’s Broadcast Notifications tool. Additionally, with the potential for outbreaks of COVID-19 to occur at any time, Broadcast Notifications reassures businesses that they will be able to communicate critical information and updates quickly.

Contact trace employees

Contact tracing has become a vital method for slowing the spread of COVID-19 and organisations can utilise access control data to help track an individual’s movements across a site.

“Harnessing the power of data analysis across sites provided by an enterprise access control system can be essential in contact tracing employees and provides a variety of management reporting and facility-use information,” says Gordon.

Gallagher’s award-winning Proximity and Contact Tracing Report was developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides organisations with the data they need for fast and efficient contact tracing. The innovative design utilises Gallagher Command Centre’s powerful reporting capability to help identify the on-site movements of specific individuals, enabling businesses to identify the areas where an infected employee has been. It also aids in the identification of those who did not share an area with the infected person, therefore ruling out exposure concerns and allowing those employees to continue to operate in a safe environment.

Ensure compliance

As the UK continues to roll out the COVID-19 vaccine, businesses may require information around vaccination status. Through competency-based access management, sites can be alerted if a person has not had their COVID-19 vaccination and restrict or deny access to areas depending on vaccination requirements/status.

“The competencies feature from Gallagher’s Command Centre provides compliance-based access that allows you to link to, or use, data to support an access decision. Businesses could consider using test results, or even vaccine confirmation to automate access rules. Data protection guidelines will need to be reviewed and adhered to, but provisioned correctly, this could be very effective indeed,” says Gordon.

Look to the future

“The future is shaping up to look very different – making your workplace and your security solution do more for you is now a reality. COVID or no COVID, businesses now have a brilliant opportunity to look at what’s possible and how they can utilise their current systems to deliver a safer, more secure environment for their people,” concludes Steve.

To find out more information about Gallagher, visit: https://security.gallagher.com/

This article was originally published in the April edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital copy, click here.

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