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The tools you need for social distancing in the workplace

The property design trend leading up to 2020 was all about communal spaces. Fitting more people into smaller square footage. Young professionals flocked to city centers to live close to everything they needed. Mixed-use buildings were springing up on every corner. Small apartments and shared office spaces offered robust amenity within easy reach. But COVID-19 brought about a paradigm shift: the more space between you and the person next to you, the better. 

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has published guidelines that call on workplaces to establish policies for social distancing, creating a new norm across most aspects of everyday life in the US. COVID-19 brought with it swift changes to the way we shop, commute, exercise, socialize—and the way we work. 

This presents a unique challenge for workplaces in particular. Capacity management is an essential part of returning to work safely in the COVID-19 age. Lower office capacity gives employees and visitors the space to follow social distancing guidelines at work. Making sure people are actually sticking to those guidelines is a different story. 

Signage, plexiglass dividers, floor decals, and rearranging the office furniture are a solid start. But none of these solutions actually enforce capacity levels. That’s where technology comes in. You can leverage capacity management tools to automate and enforce your new protocols, without even having to be on-site. 

The solution: capacity management technology

What is capacity management technology? A capacity management system is a tool that helps you measure how many people are in a space at a given time. Most businesses actually already have some sort of system in place for knowing who’s at the building and when. Employees scan an ID badge when they come in for the day, or all visitors sign in at reception. You may even have a scheduling system to reserve amenities like conference rooms. All these techniques are a simple form of occupancy tracking. 

Proper capacity management is crucial in the post-COVID office. Here’s what to look for when you’re considering a new tool for your workplace: 

  • You’ll want a system that allows you to set daily capacity levels. Being able to adjust the thresholds puts you in full control of your building. 
  • Choose a capacity management tool that works with your employee and visitor registration platform. The fewer disparate programs your admins use, the easier it will be to manage.
  • Integrating with your access control provider allows you to automate and enforce capacity limits. 

With the right capacity management tool, you can leverage the processes you already have in place. 

Step 1: Determine your capacity levels

Before you establish a new capacity management system in your building, you have to know the maximum number of people allowed. First, check your local laws and regulations for social distancing guidance. Some cities and states have different mandates for how to measure capacity. Some use square footage to calculate capacity, and certain types of businesses may require more space, like retail or food service. The CDC and your local government websites should have up-to-date guidelines. 

Your office capacity levels may differ by floor or room. Consider how people use each space when setting capacity limits. For example, a large, open lobby can hold more people than a small conference room. How long people are there matters too. Shared workstations put people at more risk than hallways where people are just passing through. You’ll also want to set up your space for social distancing. This may mean making non-permanent changes to your office layout like removing desks or blocking off meeting rooms. 

With local regulations and social distance space planning in mind, you should be able to calculate exactly how many people can safely be in your workplace.

After you have your capacity levels set, determine which areas of your office or building to monitor. Look at exterior doors, conference rooms, and break rooms. Focus on spaces where people are often close together. You need to have visibility into daily activity in real-time for these spaces and set limits for each. 

Step 2: Set up your capacity management system

To manage the capacity of your building and facilities, you need to know how many people want to use the space each day. Use an employee and visitor registration system to require everyone to register for building access ahead of time. Be sure to communicate the new process to all employees and visitors. You’ll want to have the capacity tracking tools ready to go before reopening the building.

First, admins should set the capacity limits for each space for the day. This prevents people from registering beyond the capacity limit. The capacity management tool counts the number of registrations and notifies admins once the space is full. Admins can then deny access requests until there’s room to let more people in. Accurate, real-time data empowers admins to optimize space throughout the building. Enforcing social distancing is easier once you know how many people to expect. Plus, controlling the number of people in the building creates a safer working environment for everyone.

Step 3: Connect building access control with capacity limits

Connecting your capacity management tool with your access control provider gives you even more control over who can enter your space. One of the best ways to limit office capacity is to have people work at different times. In your access control platform, create user groups for new work shifts, so only certain people have access at specific times. Together with registering for access, this prevents too many people from showing up to the building at the same time. Staggering arrival times also helps prevent congestion in lobbies and around main entries.  

Cloud-based access control systems that support remote management is essential for any office opening during the pandemic. For admins, being able to manage the entire platform from anywhere minimizes face-to-face contact. With remote unlock features, you don’t have to be on-site to let someone in. If you need to open the door for visitors, you can let them in with a single tap. Remote unlock is also great for deliveries and maintenance when nobody is at the office. Plus, capacity alerts keep admins on top of access activity. If they need to step in and change schedules on the fly, remote management makes it simple.

Step 4: Analyze and refine space management strategies

Like any building operations strategy, your capacity protocols may need adjusting over time. Look for a tool that allows you to view analytics on office attendance across all your locations. Analyze which spaces are the most-requested, or frequently go over your set capacity. You can make quick changes to door schedules and user groups in your access control provider. The better your data, the more effective your management will be. Remember, keeping people safe is the priority, so your technology tools should be flexible!

Best practices & key takeaways

For many, managing capacity at work is uncharted territory. As we all learn to navigate the new normal, there are a few best practices and takeaways to keep in mind. 

  • Follow local guidelines and check back frequently because they may change. Don’t worry – your digital and cloud-based capacity management platform makes adjusting your limits and schedules easy!
  • Integrate your platforms to make managing your building easier. With digital requests, check-ins and access credentials all connected, your administrative team is free to focus on more important tasks than assigning badges and checking visitor logs.
  • Now is the time for innovation and creative problem-solving. Reimagining your office space gives you a chance to make lasting, positive changes to the workplace. Look to leverage technology to keep people safe and make it possible to return to work sooner. 

Integrated technology solutions

The right technology tools and partners can make all the difference. When choosing new workplace platforms, make sure they are able to work together. Envoy Protect gives you the tools you need to manage employee registration and set capacity limits. It’s simple to use and gives admins more control to manage office capacity. Protect will help you enforce capacity automatically by preventing anyone else from signing-in once you reach your limit. 

By connecting Envoy to Openpath for access control, you can ensure that only those who have been approved to come in are able to enter the building. Rather than giving people unlimited access to the office, you can use Openpath’s reliable mobile credentials to administer access to approved employees and visitors. If a user hasn’t registered for the day, the Openpath reader denies their credentials. Admins have remote access to all Openpath activity, so monitoring is easy and efficient. Plus, Openpath’s touchless access is an added feature that’s both convenient and necessary for the COVID-19 office. 

Want to learn more about the technology you need to manage a safe workplace? Check out our latest ebook, How to build a technology toolkit to reopen and stay open.

Openpath creates touchless access control solutions for any building. Openpath Access combines sleek hardware with a mobile app, enabling employees to enter the office using their smartphones and making office management easier than ever. Openpath’s hands-free touchless technology means users can keep the phone in their pocket, walk up to a door and simply wave their hand to unlock any door.