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Jan 9, 2024

What is a physical access control system, and why is it important?

In this new era of hybrid work, forecasting who'll be in the office is getting trickier and can make it more challenging to secure the workplace.
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Content Marketing Manager
What is a physical access control system, and why is it important?

This year marks a dramatic shift in the physical workplace. By the end of the year alone, 90% of businesses will enforce a return-to-office (RTO) policy. The move isn't just about bringing workers back to the office. It's a chance to reestablish it as a hub for pioneering innovation and to break down the discourse that in-person collaboration is superior to its remote counterpart.

In this new era of hybrid work, forecasting who'll be in the office is getting trickier and can make it more challenging to secure the workplace. Traditional access control solutions leverage a door-centric approach that can struggle against newer security threats, leading to higher security risks and costly maintenance. This only heightens the need for more modern physical access control systems, which can make it easier to anticipate and respond to security threats via new features and capabilities.

What is a physical access control system?

A physical access control system is a security measure that regulates who can enter and move within designated areas of your workplace or facility. With traditional access control systems, employees might use key cards or biometric scanners in a typical office setting to enter a building and other specific restricted areas. 

More advanced access control systems can take this a step further by enabling employees and visitors to use their mobile devices as kiosks to access lobbies and buildings. Instead of a traditional sign-in process, you simply scan a QR code at the entrance. This action initiates the sign-in process on your phone, allowing you to complete the necessary entry step in less time.

These systems can also log each entry and exit, creating a clear record of who was in which part of the office and when. Having an accurate view of who's onsite gives you a leg up during emergency situations. Physical access control systems are crucial for ensuring security, accurately tracking who's onsite, and managing access to sensitive areas.

Benefits of access control

Businesses are looking for access control systems that do more than just lock doors. They need to protect everyone onsite while also adhering to compliance standards and creating a welcoming environment. It's all about keeping your space secure and sticking to protocol, while still providing an inviting environment for everyone.

Here are some specific benefits of access control systems and how they effectively meet these diverse business needs:

  1. Better safety for your people, places, and network. With these systems, you can customize the level of building access employees and visitors have in your workplace. Physical access control systems can also integrate with your visitor management system (VMS), giving you access to more security features and capabilities.
  2. Reduction of operating expenses. By automating entry and exit management, physical access control systems can eliminate the need to supply or replace keys, install or swap out locks, or even hire a security guard. Their efficiency in managing access points also reduces energy expenses, as areas can be secured or opened based on actual usage.
  3. Adherence to compliance standards. These systems support safety compliance (notably in distributed work models) by standardizing security protocols across locations, integrating data into a single system, and automating the collection of visitor information. This eliminates the need for manual data logging, enhances overall security, and ensures consistent enforcement of safety and privacy measures across all office locations.
  4. Real-time visibility. A physical access control system gives you a live, accurate log of who's onsite at any given time by managing and recording every entry and exit. This is crucial when developing emergency response plans and managing building capacity, especially in hybrid work environments.
  5. Fewer headaches for everyone. Many physical access control systems come with features like mobile-based access, eliminating the need for tedious, manual check-ins. These systems also have advanced registration options that enable visitors to complete necessary documentation and health verifications before arrival, streamlining their check-in to a simple QR code scan.

What an access control system can reveal about your workplace

Physical access control systems give you a detailed understanding of movement within your workplace. They shed light on the flow of employees and visitors, empowering you to fine-tune your space, ramp up security, and streamline operations. This data isn't just numbers. It's a roadmap for making savvy decisions on everything from daily management to big real estate choices. Future-proofing your office is all about using insights to smartly allocate resources and shape safety protocols that truly match how your workplace ticks. 

Here are some metrics you should keep tabs on:

  1. Entry and exit data. These systems track when and how frequently individuals enter and exit the premises, offering insights into peak hours and space utilization. This metric also tells you who's currently onsite in case of an emergency.
  2. Area-specific access. They also monitor which areas are accessed most and can highlight areas that may be over or underutilized or need heightened security.
  3. Visitor patterns. By analyzing visitor data, you can understand visitor traffic patterns, aiding in better management of guest access.
  4. Volume of denied entries. This can tell you both how well your system is working and where/when intruders make the most attempts to enter your workplace.

7 steps to choosing the right access control solution

Deciding on an access control system is all about finding the perfect match for your business. Dive into how well the system plays with your current tech and if it can grow with you. Think about making life easier for your team and visitors using it. Plus, you've got to tick all the boxes for safety and privacy laws and get the smart data you need to keep things running smoothly. It's more than just security—it's about turning the workplace into somewhere employees and visitors want to be at.

Here are a few steps to check off when evaluating your options:

  1. Assess your security needs. Evaluate your current security challenges and requirements. Consider factors like the size of your facility, the number of entry points, and the level of security needed for different areas.
  2. Research solutions. Look into various access control systems. Consider their features, such as biometric scanners, card readers, or mobile access, and how they align with your security needs.
  3. Double-check the integration capabilities. Ensure the system can integrate seamlessly with other security and workplace technologies you already use, like visitor management systems or video surveillance cameras.
  4. See if it’s easy to use. Choose a system that is user-friendly for both employees and visitors. It should be easy to manage and should not disrupt the daily workflow.
  5. Make sure it’s future-proof. Select a system with an open platform that can grow and adapt as your business needs change. It should be flexible enough to accommodate future expansions or modifications.
  6. Verify its ability to meet compliance standards. Ensure the system helps you comply with relevant regulations and offers comprehensive reporting features for audit trails and security insights.
  7. Read reviews about their customer support. Lastly, consider the reliability of the system and the level of support offered by the vendor. Good customer support and a proven track record are important for long-term success.

Future-proof your workplace with a modern solution

An access control system that can easily integrate with your VMS is essential for navigating any future complexity in the workplace. It's more than just upping security. It's about staying flexible and ready for what's next. A modern access control system can blend seamlessly with your current tech and scale as your business evolves. They keep you compliant with changing rules, ensuring your workplace isn't just safe but also smart and efficient. It's a savvy investment for any business looking to stay ahead.

Interested in learning more? Tune in to our webinar, "Future-proof security: How to safeguard your workplace for the long term," where we will discuss access control with the maestro of it all, Lee Odess.

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AUTHOR BIO
Content Marketing Manager

Giulianno Lopez is a Content Marketing Manager here at Envoy, where he specializes in crafting content centered around workplace security and compliance. When he's not working, you can find him at Golden Gate Park training for his next race.

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