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Five Essential Access Control Considerations for the Return to Work

Right now is an ideal time to implement technology and solutions as well as make policy improvements. Read on for five best practices to consider in preparing for the return to work.

By Eric R. Joseph
Eric R. Joseph is Director of Business Development - A&E Consultant Program at LenelS2

Though the exact timeline for the “return to normal” remains to be seen, the re-opening of traditional workplaces is happening now. As more people become vaccinated and the throes of the pandemic hopefully start to wane, many workers will begin to return to their offices – some permanently, others on a more flexible, partially remote basis. When they do, access control systems – some of which may not have seen much use during the intervening year – need to be ready.

The situation presents opportunities for building owners and system administrators to be proactive. Right now is an ideal time to implement technology and solutions as well as make policy improvements that help keep employees and visitors safe and provide them with the confidence to enter facilities. Read on for five best practices to consider in preparing for the return to work.

Have a strategy for lost credentials

Over the past year, it is inevitable that some will have lost their access cards or credentials. To combat this there are three main options to consider: provide new proximity cards to all those who have misplaced one, migrate your workforce to smart cards, or begin issuing mobile/virtual credentials prior to the return to the office. The benefit of going with virtual credentials is that they can be distributed while people are still at home. No matter what you choose to do, be proactive. As part of the return to work, communications need to clearly explain procedures employees should follow to ensure they have access when they need it.

Conduct a cardholder review

Since everyone was last in the office, there have most likely been some changes to the cardholder population. These changes fall into three different categories: people who left the company, people who joined the company or people who transitioned to be fully remote. Making sure all cardholders in the system are still actually employees is always a good start. Security can and should work in conjunction with Human Resources to ascertain information about cardholder status and update credentials and access levels accordingly. Take this opportunity to integrate your access control system with a data source of record, such as Active Directory or a Human Resources database, to automate the onboarding and offboarding of employees.

Complete a system upgrade

Access control system upgrades require a significant amount of planning and coordination to ensure success with minimal worker disruption. Given the circumstances and reduced number of people in offices, now is the time to complete an upgrade with relatively little business impact. Additionally, this down time will allow you to begin planning how to take advantage of all of the new features and capabilities in the recently upgraded system.

Perform a cybersecurity audit

Cybersecurity should be top of mind for every industry. And its importance will only increase as the number of remote workers – who are an easier target – continues to grow. Ensure you’re on the latest version of software to protect against the ever-evolving cybersecurity threat environment. Have a conversation with your IT department to make sure you’re following best practices. Consider implementing multifactor authentication, utilizing company certificates and following modern password policies (i.e. frequent, required changes). Integrate with Active Directory for password management. Look for and consult the most up-to-date manufacturer cybersecurity checklists and hardening guides. For access control hardware and software think about upgrading to the latest, more secure protocols: communication to the software (TLS), communication to panels (TLS / AES) and communication to readers (OSDP).

Implement technologies and solutions that allow for a comfortable return to work

The world has changed, and people are going to expect things to be different when they return to the office. If too little has been done or communicated in terms of updating policies, technology and physical spaces, you run the risk of employees not feeling comfortable returning to work. Technologies such as occupancy management, touchless access control and proactive screening go a long way to help increase confidence in people as they return to the office. As part of the Carrier Healthy Buildings Program, LenelS2 solutions can help create safer, more efficient working environments.

Traditionally the workplace is too busy to easily implement changes – not to mention people tend to be resistant to them – but the pandemic provides a rare opportunity where workplaces are both not busy and people are expecting change. Take this opportunity to apply the above considerations to help ensure a productive and safe return to work.

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