One of the first things businesses will be considering when offices reopen is how to safely welcome back a small number of visitors to their premises. Prior to Covid-19, many businesses thrived on guests flowing into and out of their organizations. From contractors, clients and suppliers to service and delivery personnel, recruitment candidates and training teams, visitors to an organization brought in expertise, support and skills. But when the seriousness of the virus hit, one of the first steps many organizations took to minimize its transmission was to limit visitors. As UK businesses reopen their doors, they must find a safe way to gradually allow guests to their organizations while complying with robust social distancing and hygiene requirements.
Some organizations are addressing this by bringing in Smart Visitor Management. This system, usually consisting of a mobile-optimized app and console, provides a safe, contactless alternative to visitor management ‘sign in/sign out’ books. It ensures visitors receive critical information about expectations and requirements, with data sent directly to their smartphones and tablets to minimize face-to-face contact. They can answer customized questions, and zero-touch sign in means there is no requirement to touch anything other than the user’s own mobile device.
Adhering to government guidelines
For many businesses, it’s a major challenge reopening offices for employees that need to return, adhering to evolving government guidelines. Actively welcoming visitors from outside organizations requires further thought and careful planning. Companies are required by law to protect their employees and others from harm, and organizations with more than five people are advised to carry out a safety audit on their premises to assess an adequate level of protection from Covid-19. The government’s document ‘Working Safely During Coronavirus’ lays out clear guidelines, requiring that businesses:
- Provide clear guidance on social distancing and hygiene to people on arrival, for example by phone, on the website or by email
- Limit the number of visitors at any one time
- Limit visitor times to a specific time window and restricting access to required visitors only
- Determine if schedules for essential services and contractor visits can be revised to reduce interaction and overlap between people, for example, carrying out services at night
- Maintain a record of all visitors, if this is practical
- Revise visitor arrangements to ensure social distancing and hygiene, for example, where someone physically signs in with the same pen in receptions
- Review entry and exit routes for visitors and contractors to minimize contact with other people
As your business considers reopening its doors, conforming to new safety requirements is likely to require changes to your visitor check-in process. For the time being, guests won’t be able to congregate in the same area, or cluster around a reception desk to check-in. Sign-in books will no longer be appropriate and sharing pens won’t be an option. The information you provide when they arrive at your premises is likely to be more important than ever in terms of keeping them safe but passing them pages of printed documents to read isn’t advisable.
The benefits of zero-touch sign in
Smart visitor management eliminates these risks while providing a secure visitor experience – even before guests arrive on site. As well as delivering a professional sign-in experience for visitors who check in via a tracking management console, the apps are optimized for use on a smartphone and desktop.
Hosts can pre-register guests and send them a branded email with meeting time and location details, plus a QR code they can scan from their smartphone on arrival for zero-touch sign-in. At this point, visitors are required to read and accept the latest health and safety requirements customized by the business they’re visiting. This can include information on hygiene, expectations around social distancing, requests to look out for safe distance physical markings and procedures to follow if they become unwell. Businesses can present visitors with virus-specific questions which they must agree to before proceeding, such as:
- I have no current symptoms known to be those of Covid-19 – in particular a cough or high temperature
- I have not had direct contact with a person or persons displaying these symptoms in the past 7 days
Visitors’ details are stored in a secure online portal, and privacy features ensure they, and their data, are protected.
Businesses can access their visitor history, so if they need to look back at their visitor list for any reason, they can do so quickly and easily. Real-time reporting functionality helps organizations improve traceability, should they need to, with full contact details in the event that they need to make contact afterwards.
A new system for employee sign-in
The technology is also being rolled out to support employees’ return to the workplace. Workers use their smartphones for zero-touch sign-in, using QR codes. They can read up-to-the-minute safety measures and requirements, and answer questions on-screen on their own current health and wellness.
In addition, the platform can set limits on the number of people entering the building, helping businesses manage capacity and adhere to social distancing requirements.
As well as helping businesses conform to new safety requirements, digital sign-in systems can improve security. While online crime is a growing threat, ‘traditional’ or physical crimes against commercial organizations such as theft, assault and fraud are still more common. A business’ first line of defense is its employees but this isn’t always straightforward, as they swipe a visitor through reception turnstiles until they have access to a pass or leave a door open for a contractor. Smart visitor management removes the burden of security from employees, while containing and minimizing risk.
Reopening your business requires careful planning, process and systems changes, as well as education and behavioral change. Automating your visitor process is simple, fast and secure. It mitigates risks for employees and visitors to your organization, and is a step towards a return to business as usual.
Ryan Higginson, Vice President & UK/ROI Country Leader, Pitney Bowes