Hybrid working has become widespread in recent years. And, as it’s so favoured by employees, looks like it’s here to stay. Globally, 62% of office employees have opted for a hybrid working model, while 16% work remotely and only 22% are full-time office-based. Accenture’s research shows us that 83% of people prefer hybrid working and Prudential’s “Pulse of the American Worker Survey” revealed 87% of employees want to work from home at least once a week.

So what does hybrid working mean for security?

A hybrid working model often means there’s fewer people on your premises most days, and fewer people have a permanent desk, so there’s lots more hot desking. Both these factors can cause challenges – not just in relation to security, but for health and safety, facilities management, and other departments.

How can physical access control give more of what you need?

The right access control system can help you tackle these challenges and bring more flexibility into your company’s environment and working styles. Whether we’re talking about on-premises, pseudo-cloud, or cloud-native solutions, if it’s got strong functionality and integrates easily with other systems, it can be pivotal role in helping you make a success of hybrid working. Here’s how:

1. Collate valuable data

A good physical access control system provides a wealth of data and powerful reporting functions. And this has never been more useful than now, as companies navigate new ways of working and assess whether their current office still suits their needs.In an environment where employees (and visitors) are free to come and go more fluidly, rather than keeping to set hours and days, access control data can be critical. Far from simply being a tool for mitigating risk, a physical access control system can play a significant, transformational role. It lets you:

  • Analyse how your buildings are being used.
  • Determine whether you need more (or less) space in specific locations or for individual departments.
  • Make data-driven decisions about how spaces should be used.
  • Check if a contractor was present for the hours invoiced – even if no one was there to see them.
  • Prove compliance with regulations.
  • Check who accessed an area, and when, if there’s a security incident.

2. Be smart in how you use your buildings

By applying data collated from your physical access control system, you can be much smarter in how you use your access control in your buildings. This not only means you can avoid wasting money and resources, but it can also help you provide a better experience for employees. This can be crucial in a job market where potential recruits place a high value on where they’re able to work – whether that’s at home, in funky offices, or roaming the world as a digital nomad.

A physical access control system can help you create smart buildings that provide the adaptability needed for today’s hybrid working. Because the fact is, most employees still need and want to be able to work from company premises, at least some of the time.

The key to maximising the extensive reach of your physical access control system is integrating it with other systems and ensuring security teams work closely with other departments. Some examples include:

  • Facilities management – access control data can reveal underused areas that can be closed for periods of the week to save on lighting, heating, and air conditioning.
  • Visitor management – employees can pre-register visitors and provide access for them at the location where they’ll be working on the day of their visit.
  • Kiosks in reception – employees and visitors can self-register efficiently on arrival.
  • Health and wellbeing – you can ensure more first aiders are present, for example, on days that are typically busiest.
  • Booking systems – people can pre-book access to rooms and desk space before they come to the office, so they can get to work as soon as they arrive.
  • Destination control for lifts – prevent overcrowding, improve traffic flow and increase security by controlling which floors each person can access, and even flex this for certain days or times.

3. Provide safe storage

A hybrid working model can mean you need to provide more secure storage. This may be because, for example:

  • People are hotdesking rather than having a permanent desk and so they need somewhere safe to keep their belongings.
  • People aren’t in the office on the same days as colleagues and so can’t hand documents and other items to them physically.
  • Buildings are quieter and so give more scope for misdemeanours, even if you control access to buildings, rooms, and areas.

Integrating physical access control with locker management, lets you extend your access control principles to lockers and other storage. And use one system to determine who has access to what, at which times, and under which circumstances. You can add locks to storage units of varying sizes to provide secure storage for:

  • Personal belongings such as bags, phones, and coats.
  • Company assets such as laptops, equipment, and confidential papers.
  • Pick-up and drop-off services such as IT repairs, deliveries, and passing on documents.

With the right system, you don’t need to provide a permanent locker for each employee and spare lockers for visitors and contractors. A good locker management system lets you use lockers dynamically. So, people choose a locker that’s free and use it for however long they need to (or for however long you authorise them to use it). This not only saves space and money, but it also boosts convenience for building users and administrators and improves security.

4. Increase flexibility with centralised control

A centralised physical access control system lets you easily implement flexible working policies while maintaining safety and security standards. And offering this flexibility is attractive for existing employees and potential recruits. Gartner tells us more than two-thirds of candidates working onsite want to work in a hybrid or remote model, and 97% of hybrid or remote workers prefer that setup.

With the right access control system, you can allow employees to enter and move through any of your buildings (or just the ones they’re authorised for) using one identifier. So they can split their time between locations to suit their schedule or preferences. And they can use that same identifier for things such as lockers, printers, and cafeteria payments at each building.

Centralised access control lets you implement your security policies consistently at each location, ensuring appropriate levels of protection for each facility and the spaces within them. Even if needs vary due to localised hybrid working arrangements. And if things change, you can quickly amend access permissions for your buildings around the world. And scale your system up and down if you want to add new locations or close existing ones.

By centralising access control, you can even let physical security teams enjoy hybrid working because they can monitor the status of your spaces and address issues remotely, in real time.

5. Improve health and safety measures

Offices tend to be quieter when there’s a hybrid working model in place, as people often work from home on different days. Which means there’s not always someone present to check people are following correct procedures. A physical access control system can help you automate how you maintain, and increase, health and safety standards and compliance.

You can, for example, implement measures where employees have to read and agree with safety advice or present certification at a kiosk in reception before being authorised to access. Or they’re not granted access until they’ve sanitised their hands or had their temperature checked. You can also quickly apply measures such as social distancing, and change which days each person can and can’t be in the office to prevent overcrowding. And you can help reduce health-related risks by introducing touchless physical access control.

6. Take tighter control of security

Securing a hybrid workplace needs special consideration.

A physical access control system that integrates with other technologies, such as biometric identification, lets you layer your security. This helps prevent people getting easy access to the wrong rooms, equipment and data while on your premises – even if no one’s watching. You can give extra protection to spaces where your most valuable assets can be found, such as data storage rooms or laboratories.

It’s important to make sure your system itself is protected too. Because quieter premises also give cybercriminals more scope to hack and override your physical access control system. Today’s best systems have high levels of cybersecurity.

AEOS takes this a step further by letting you put your locks in transparent mode to make them tamperproof. In this mode, decryption keys are stashed securely in the SAM (secure access module) within the lock, on the safe side of the door, or in the controller’s memory.

How can we help make your hybrid working a success?

In short, a physical access control system can give you the flexibility and fine-tuned control you need to create hybrid working environments that are safe, secure, and convenient. Your business sites should be places where your employees enjoy working and visitors like to visit. Our team would love nothing more than to help you decide what success looks like when it comes to the role of access control in your hybrid working model.

We’re on standby to have these conversations with you.

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