Katie Strain is the Senior Manager, Real Estate & Facilities at Samsara, an industrial IoT company that uses hardware and software to improve the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of their customers’ operations. Samsara has over 10,000 customers globally and over 1,300 employees across four offices in the U.S. and U.K.
Strain was a speaker on a Leaders of the Workplace Experience panel, a networking and conversation event series that features the best-known leaders in the security and workplace experience field. Alongside Brandon Gregg, Head of Global Trust and Security at Seagate, Strain discussed how to build and maintain secure workplaces that work well.
We chatted with her about her work, workplace security, and what she’s looking for when she evaluates workplace technology.
Designing Samsara's workplace experience with workplace security in mind
As part of Samsara’s Workplace Facilities and Real Estate team, Strain plays a key role in designing new offices and improving existing workspaces. To do this, she creates robust systems that are as much about employee and customer service as technical requirements such as workplace security.
“People in tech work long hours,” she explains. Lots of employees not only have lunch on-site, but also happy hour, and dinner. “The office building needs to accommodate these employees.”
Samsara uses a general satisfaction survey to poll employees about the workplace environment. The survey has revealed feedback such as that people are struggling to find a place to sit in the crowded lunch room, or that there aren’t enough quiet, focus areas. She uses this anonymous data as leverage, and chats with workplace architects to see what’s possible.
On choosing the right visitor management solution for Samsara's workplace technology stack
“When it comes to something that looks great, has ease of use, and is easy for general counsels to say ‘yes’ to, Envoy works really well,” shares Strain. Samsara uses Envoy’s delivery management and visitor management software. She appreciates the system’s flexibility, the portability of using an app, and the price. “There’s not a downside.”
“In the age of Amazon, no one wants packages delivered to their home. They get packages delivered to work.”
Before Samsara started using delivery management software, they had “racks and racks of mail.” Mailroom staff had the cumbersome job of reminding employees to pick up their deliveries by sending out individual Slack messages.
Now, the process is streamlined with Envoy’s delivery management system. Mailroom employees simply take a photo of each package or letter with the mobile app. The recipient is automatically notified and they can sign for their package from an iPad, or mark the delivery picked up from within their notification email or Slack message. This workplace technology helps keep deliveries more secure and is much more efficient for mailroom operations.
How do you balance creating a positive visitor experience with maintaining workplace security?
“A lot of visitors are high-touch,” Strain says. “You want them to know exactly what to do.” When they sign in using Envoy’s visitor management software, “It’s a nice, seamless transition.”
Visitors sign an NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) or waiver, and have their photo taken, all from the Envoy Visitors app on an iPad. Using a badge printer, visitor badges are printed with their name and photo. Then Envoy automatically notifies their host with the visitor’s photo, so the employee knows exactly who to greet. “You don’t have that awkward moment in the lobby,” Strain said. “[Visitor management software] allows the employee not to feel like they’ve abandoned their visitor. It keeps both parties happy.” Visitor badges “make it clear."
In addition to exacting visitor logs, and signed legal documents, Envoy Visitors only allows authorized visitors on site, and verifies every visitor's identity. This not only helps with improving Samsara’s workplace security, it also takes care of the company’s complicated compliance needs.
How do you determine if a workplace security tool is useful?
The overall feedback on having a dedicated visitor management system has been positive. Strain attributes this to the approachable user interface. With an urban campus with multiple buildings, Strain notes that visitors will often end up at the wrong building, but Envoy helps to see where they are and get them where they need to go more quickly.
“We talk a lot about process improvement with our business at Samsara. We have metrics on how people liked or disliked lunch and to rate our vendors to invite them back. People don’t realize there was a time that Envoy didn’t exist. It feels like it’s always been here. That’s the highest of praise.” –Katie Strain, Senior Manager, Real Estate & Facilities, Samsara
What facility concerns are you working to solve as your business continues to scale?
A big part of scaling is hiring, says Strain, and hiring means increased interviewing. With hundreds of candidates that come through, their experience is of mission-critical importance to the business.
“How can we help people find their way? Scaling other sides of the business means thinking about amenities based on what people want. How do we measure who uses what and how? For example, how do we get mail to everyone successfully?”
What workplace technology would help make things run even smoother?
For Strain, better, simplified conference room booking is the next workplace experience area to tackle. Strain said it’s a “full-time job” to move people around to different meeting rooms. While some platforms can give you some data on room usage, they don’t track who doesn’t show up.
“Why isn’t there some AI that does it for me? We’re designing a building with more than 100 conference rooms.” Strain said. “The AV still feels old school. Everything should just be run on an iPad at this point!”
How workplace technology is helping to align goals between IT and facilities departments
Strain reinforces the point that the relationship between IT and Facilities matters. Since she builds facilities infrastructure based on their design, the two teams need to figure out what the goals are together. Of course, there will be times when opposing views occur between departments, but that’s only natural, according to Strain. “We really do feel like one team a lot of times. They are great about just solving the problem.”
The first visitor system Strain implemented generated considerable conversation––and investment from IT, which led to delays in deployment. This workplace security project centered around being able to know who was at Samsara and when, and involved stocks, regulations, and confidentiality.
“It was too expensive for IT’s budget, and required on-premise hardware.” It’s different these days, thanks to workplace security tech and visitor management software. “Just putting an iPad out with software and [nothing has to] live in a server room. The more and more these systems catch up, it smooths all of that friction out. When it comes to security cameras and badge access, it’s easier to agree on what to go with because it’s app-based.”
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