How Essential Businesses Can Navigate a Health/Safety Crisis

eWEEK DATA POINTS: Here is a set of best practices a specialist services provider has compiled from essential businesses around digital visitor management, which is becoming a major concern with the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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We’ve all heard about so-called “essential businesses” during a crisis, as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. These verticals are considered essential at this time: medical and health care, telecommunications, information technology systems, defense, food and agriculture, transportation and logistics, energy, water and wastewater, law enforcement and public works. 

With widespread quarantines as a result of the current global pandemic and McKinsey & Co. predicting “a sharp fall in consumer and business spending until the end of Q2, producing a recession,” a good number of organizations remain open and operate as essential businesses. As the saying goes, there’s a lesson to be learned in everything. So what can we learn from these businesses?

We can learn plenty, according to Gregory Blondeau, CEO of cloud-based enterprise visitor management solution Proxyclick. He and his team have been closely monitoring the number of visitors, employees and contractors still checking into corporate offices and production sites worldwide. With more than 30 Fortune 500 companies among its clients, Proxyclick has seen a 70% drop in the number of check-ins for its clients overall. 

However, it has seen less-dramatic decreases for those businesses in essential industries—and this is just between March 11, when the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic—and April Fool’s Day. We’d do well not to end up the fools in the world of health and security.

In this eWEEK Data Points article, using industry information from Blondeau, we’ll look at the best practices his company has compiled from essential businesses around digital visitor management.

Data Point No. 1: Exercise Caution

First and foremost, follow the guidelines set out by your local or governmental health authorities. This is not the time to be “disruptive” or “innovative” by design. Rather, you and your organization should err on the side of caution. If one or more of your business sites must remain open, then using a digital visitor management system can help you mitigate health and safety risks right from your front desk.

Data Point No. 2: Screen Your Visitors

Conduct health screening well in advance of each visit by sending ahead health questionnaires with custom questions that follow a logic flow. Your visitor management software should allow you to configure custom flows and screens to determine whether you grant or deny visits depending on the answers you receive. 

Data Point No. 3: Utilize Cloud Storage

If your business requires your visitors to sign releases or NDAs as part of doing business based on legitimate interests, then you should send these agreements ahead in advance via email. Food manufacturers, in particular, can secure digital signatures on documents for safe-keeping whereby avoiding unnecessary contact on the day of the visit. Visitor management solutions should allow for this to be automated and integrated with your existing cloud storage apps.

Data Point No. 4: Leverage Multiple Platforms

The self-check-in should be temporarily disabled so that the number of surfaces exposed is drastically reduced. This means removing as many physical touchpoints as possible in the visitor or contractor experience. Hand sanitizer might do wonders for the psyche, but your front desk staff should be able to check your visitors in, from a distance, using their own dashboard or mobile device. 

Data Point No. 5: Integrate Your Access Control

Forgo keycards for QR codes to provide and control access in and around your business sites. This is even more critical if your business compliance must adhere to global regulations around providing physical escorts around parts of your premises. Access control integrations can easily replace the need for security escorts and reduce exposure to health risks. Data centers, especially, need to run as “business as usual” so their technicians can come and go seamlessly to keep the servers of global economies running securely.

Data Point No. 6: Automate Data Collection

If and when you must welcome visitors or contractors into your buildings, automate the collection of their email addresses and other contact information ahead of time. If an outbreak or emergency occurs in your building, or down the street from you, you may have to use the contact list to broadcast a message or even hand it over to the authorities.

Data Point No. 7: Uphold Data Protection

Be sure to respect data retention periods according to any relevant data privacy laws that may apply to you. Your visitor management system should at the very least allow you to manually delete visit data and, ideally, be able to automate the data retention period for you. During such sensitive times, it’s important not to forget that we all have a right to our data privacy.

Data Point No. 8: Prepare for the Recovery Phase

On the brighter side, once the global economy returns to humming its usual tune, your business will have to kick into gear for the last steps in your business continuity plan. Your visitor management data should be able to aid you in your business impact analysis and help you in future updates in your business continuity strategies. 

Data Point No. 9: Be Audit-Ready

Never underestimate the power of reporting when it comes to regulatory inspections and insurance claims. This is especially true in times where a bulk of the businesses worldwide are vulnerable to breaches and theft. Having security policies in place could mean the difference between passing or failing future audits.

Data Point No. 10: Visitor Management Goes Beyond the Front Desk

Implementing a visitor management system helps impress your visitors and streamline your front desk operations. It speaks volumes of your brand when your visitors or contractors walk away having had a memorable visitor experience. But nothing trumps the security and safety of all parties involved, including yourself and your employees. That’s why it’s all the more important to have a flexible digital solution in place that can be customized in real time to adapt swiftly to any local or governmental changes in regulations. 

Global pandemics don’t respect our boundaries, and so we must set our own.

If you have a suggestion for an eWEEK Data Points article, email cpreimesberger@eweek.com.