Visitor management has always been an important element of workplace safety, but it’s becoming an even greater focus for workplace leaders in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Suddenly, leaders are faced with questions of how to maintain safe workplace occupancy levels, what additional steps they may need to take to keep employees healthy and what their obligations are for reporting a possible COVID-19 exposure.
Now is the time to rethink your policies for visitor management and potentially re-evaluate your existing visitor management system. Here’s what you should be considering.
Visitor management allows you to maintain a record of every client, job candidate and contractor who comes into your workplace. It serves the critical function of protecting your workplace from unauthorized visitors, including solicitors and former employees. It also allows you to manage foot traffic in your lobby by helping guests navigate your building quickly and find the person they’re there to see. Good visitor management sets the tone for guests, creating a positive impression in an instant.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought additional concerns about employee and visitor health into the equation. Employees want to feel safe when they return to work, and that includes knowing their employer is taking reasonable measures to protect them from COVID-19 exposure. Visitors feel the same way. And as many leaders take steps to reduce occupancy and maintain spatial distancing in the workplace, visitors might be walking into a space that looks very different from what they remembered. Walking into a half-empty workplace to find an empty reception desk (or a crowded lobby where people are waiting to sign in) will only add to their anxiety.
What written rules does your organization have in place for visitors, if any? If you don’t have a policy, employees will make their own rules. In addition to introducing potential safety risks, this can lead to confusion, inconsistent policies and a lack of accountability. A strong visitor management policy will clarify expectations for employees and visitors.
When you return to work following the coronavirus pandemic, your visitor management policy should address:
Having clear procedures in place ensures your organization is prepared for any issues that may arise. For instance, if someone discloses they have tested positive for COVID-19, employers should notify others that a possible exposure may have occurred while maintaining the confidentiality of the individual. This may include contacting any visitors who were present in the workplace when the exposure occurred.
To do this, you’ll need a record of each visitor and their contact information.
Paper-based visitor sign-in sheets may have been standard procedure for decades, but they are no longer adequate for the modern workplace. There are many drawbacks to relying on pen and paper, including:
Depending on your industry or the reason for a guest’s visit, the sign-in procedure for your visitors may include multiple steps. For example, guests may need to review required safety information or sign paperwork like an NDA.
With a manual process, visitors can only complete check-in after they have arrived. That can lead to long lines at your reception desk—the last thing you want when you’re trying to follow physical distancing guidelines.
With paper-based visitor management, it can be difficult to notify a host that their visitor has arrived. Doing so usually requires a receptionist to call the host, who may or may not be at their desk at that time. If the visitor arrives early or the host is running late, they could be waiting in the lobby for a long time.
Using a paper sign-in sheet means visitors can see the names and information of every recent guest, which can cause a number of privacy and confidentiality issues. For example, if someone at the company is meeting with multiple contractors to discuss a project, the visiting contractors can see which of their competitors are also vying for the job.
In addition, visitors may provide incomplete or inaccurate information or have handwriting so bad that their entry is illegible, which completely defeats the purpose of requiring them to sign in.
Most importantly, a manual check-in process increases the risk of unauthorized visitors entering the workplace, such as a disgruntled former employee or a competitor looking to get insider information.
Every interaction a job candidate, existing client or potential partner has with your company influences their opinion. A paper-based visitor management system gives visitors the impression your company is old-fashioned in its policies and technology.
It might seem like a minor detail, but in the war to attract top clients and top talent, using a professional, digital visitor management system gives your company a competitive edge.
A paper-based approach to visitor management limits the ways you can enhance the visitor experience because it cannot be connected to other software solutions.
This means you can’t take advantage of all the technology that supports an exceptional experience while visitors are on site, such as wayfinding and digital signage. Having digital technology that makes it easy for visitors to check in, find people and find their destination allows their visit to be more productive and increases their confidence in your company.
Since companies have begun to increasingly prioritize visitor management over the past few years, there are many different solutions with various features and capabilities available on the market. As you evaluate your options, there are two types of visitor management software you should avoid—free visitor management systems and hosted visitor management systems.
If you’re used to a paper-based check-in process, it can be tempting to choose free visitor check-in software. However, these free, open source visitor management solutions can come with glitches or limited functionality, be unsatisfactory, and may ultimately do more harm than good.
Many free visitor management systems are actually “freemium” solutions that either restrict access to the full feature set or limit the number of times you can use the software unless you pay a fee.
The second type of visitor management software to avoid is hosted. With a hosted solution, any time you want to upgrade or update the software, you have to pay the provider an additional charge. On top of that, you are responsible for ongoing maintenance, including any security fixes.
Hosted solutions are also difficult to scale and not easily integrated with other platforms. Support is usually limited once these systems are installed.
With premium, cloud-based visitor management system, you get a full set of features without any hidden fees.
All hosting, maintenance and upgrade costs are included in the monthly subscription fee. And all updates and upgrades are deployed automatically, meaning you’ll always have the most up-to-date, secure version of the software.
Investing in the right visitor management system provides many benefits to your company.
It improves security by maintaining a digital record of everyone who comes into your building. It also improves the efficiency of deliveries of both packages and food, since vendors don’t have to repeatedly enter the same information every time they make a delivery.
The right visitor management system is especially important in post-COVID-19 workplaces. In the event a visitor to your workplace or an employee is diagnosed with a contagious virus, you will have a digital record of everyone who was on site and anyone that may have interacted with that individual. And in the event of an emergency evacuation, it allows you to ensure everyone has left the building.
To be confident in your choice of visitor management software, you need to know what to look for. Here are the nine capabilities the right visitor management solution will have:
When you return to work following the coronavirus pandemic, having a secure way to manage visitors will be even more important. It’s time to update your visitor management policy, abandon paper sign-in sheets and adopt a smart visitor management system.
See how iOFFICE makes visitor management easy. Schedule a live demo.
James McDonald is a sports enthusiast, brother in Christ and once swam in a tank with the infamous TV sharks.