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Pandemic-responsive security: managing touchpoints for a resilient workplace

Pandemic-responsive security: managing touchpoints for a resilient workplace
The added burden of responsibility has altered the approach towards managing access control and coping with occupancy thresholds, with facility and operational management facing the urgency to re-evaluate their touchpoints across their facilities, both in the short and long-term.
In June, the Singapore government announced plans to start moving towards a “living with COVID-19” strategy, focusing on tracking and treating outbreaks with vaccinations and hospital admissions — toning down on the strict lockdowns, border closures, and work-from-home orders that have been the defining feature of much of their pandemic-afflicted peers across the globe.

In wake of the implemented measures, this has accelerated businesses to step up and rethink the way to manage and engage both their employees and external stakeholders. The pandemic in the past two years has threatened the lives and livelihood of the population, with survival being the most literal meaning of the word, entwined with the increased scrutiny on organizations’ responsibility towards both public health and the business at large.

The added burden of responsibility has altered the approach towards managing access control and coping with occupancy thresholds, with facility and operational management facing the urgency to re-evaluate their touchpoints across their facilities, both in the short and long-term. 

“As a business owner, we’ve faced many difficult questions from both our frontline staff and our clients about the irrevocable and dramatic changes to life in office,” said Toby Koh, Group MD of Ademco Security Group. “There is an added expectation for establishments to not just secure the health and safety of their own staff and clients, but also to the general public; a single misstep in the public eye can have damaging consequences on public safety and confidence in the organization,” he added.

However, with the rapid acceleration of technology, organizations now have access to tools, combined with the right systems and security measures, that can help mitigate the risks the pandemic presents. Here, our security experts weigh in on the changing security landscape and how organizations can safely navigate the murky road ahead with confidence and assurance.

Safeguarding Operations: Minimizing Disruptions

It is no secret that COVID-19 has caused unprecedented disruptions in the global economy, illuminating the inadequacy of critical work operations and highlighting the need for the flexibility and agility existing systems currently lack. This has led to an adoption of a more defensive-oriented business strategy; where a recent study by IBM showed that top executives are placing higher emphasis on enterprise agility and workforce well-being and security in a post-pandemic era due to increasing pressure to reduce costs.

“In order to build greater resilience, organizations have to realign their operational processes towards safeguarding their key business interests,” said Edwin Chuang, Group Finance Director of Ademco Security Group. “This includes revamping business operations by establishing best practices and protocols to navigate the ‘new normal’ and prepare next-generation policies for future crises to safeguard operational capital and expense transparency.” he stated.

Organizations are beginning to embrace the shift by having business functions that do not require access to on-site equipment work remotely, while redesigning workspaces for those that do in order to enforce social distancing. This operational redesign also includes the adoption of health and safety policies across the entire process—from monitoring occupancy thresholds and implementing staggered entry and exit schedules, to establishing key contact tracing methods and managing infected workers in the event of an outbreak.

“Ultimately, business leaders will have to look towards reducing operational downtime costs while enhancing their human capital capabilities to remain agile in the face of uncertainty.” Edwin added. 

Preventing outbreaks: reducing touchpoints

Over the last 18 months, increasingly contagious variants of the COVID-19 virus such as the Delta and C12 variants are surfacing, and in the face of surging infection rates have prompted stricter preventive measures to be taken to curb the spread. This includes aggressive disinfection protocols at high-traffic premises with a high number of touchpoints, and implementing screening measures for stricter access control.

Although studies show that risk of transmission on contaminated surfaces, known as fomites, is not thought to be a significant risk, businesses continued to invest in sanitation services as transmission from fomites cannot be ruled out entirely. Further studies have lent support to the airborne transmission hypothesis, though some local experts suspect fomites as the basis for a recent cluster outbreak.

To minimize risk of transmission, facilities are exploring the use of zero-contact biometric readers such as touchless fingerprint sensors utilizing 3D technology to capture biometric data for maximum security and convenience. Contactless fingerprint solutions can scan and verify fingerprints in less than a second with just a simple hand wave, streamlining traffic flow and preventing bottlenecks at key access points, adhering to social-distancing measures. Next-generation access control touchpoints also allow employees to use their mobile phones as access keys, significantly reducing surface contact without compromising on safety and security.

Inhibiting spread: social distancing

Recent super spreader events point to crowd gatherings at indoor premises risk increased exposure to the virus, in congruence with studies concluding that areas with high population density and crowd gatherings are associated with aggravating the spread of viral respiratory infectious diseases.

At high throughput workplaces, traffic is often hindered by COVID-19 policy-driven safety checks, potentially creating a bottleneck and flouting social-distancing measures. "We've seen situations where social-distancing was not observed at some facilities, even though protocols were followed. Often this is due to some premises being ill-equipped to handle the sudden influx of visitors while trying to enforce safe-entry checks," said Patrick Lim, Group Head of Strategy, Ademco Security Group. "By implementing proactive preventive solutions, management can effectively manage and expedite traffic flow with visitor management solutions such as integrated self-assessment tools and entry control systems. Crowd detection technology can also help to actively disperse crowds. Despite high vaccination rates addressing severe covid cases, our customers cannot afford to suffer large number of staff becoming sick while they restart operations.'' he added.

Recent changes to workplace arrangements have also added a layer of complexity to managing occupancy in a shared workplace. Social gatherings and interactions have been limited due to “lax” safe management measures in areas such as pantries and staff canteens contributing to the rise of clusters at workplaces, according to a statement from the Ministry of Health (MOH) in Singapore.

To enforce safe management measures, businesses are opting for occupancy management software to effectively track facility occupancy thresholds and even restrict access to areas at maximum capacity. These applications can also support contact tracing efforts, and individual users can assess their health symptoms and receive real-time reminders to maintain social distancing.

Alternatively, quarantine facilities in Singapore issue single-use access cards, programmed to be able to enter the premises only once, a concept which could see wider adoption for commercial facilities as Singapore gears up for the “living with COVID-19” plans. Some places also found new uses for existing systems; one instance saw a business tweaking what is traditionally an access control system into an impromptu occupancy tracking system to determine the number of occupants at a workplace to prevent overcrowding.

Safety management: technology-driven centralized security

With heightened security in light of the pandemic, there is collective consensus in a recent study that physical security plays a much more important role than ever before. In the same study, close to 30% of respondents indicated that they do not have centralized security solutions and struggle with managing day-to-day operations, while a quarter of respondents felt that technology for enforcing contact-tracing, social-distancing, and healthy building compliance requirements is critical for pandemic response.

With 61% of respondents indicating security integration being the most important goal, businesses can opt for managed services with Security-as-a-Service playing a larger role in their security operations. Operating as a subscription model and with no upfront capital expenditure, integration of centralized security solutions is a much more cost-effective and safer investment in a challenging business environment. With a centralized command centre with round-the-clock video surveillance monitoring and virtual patrols, there is a lesser dependence on physical manpower, thus reducing human error and physical touchpoints.

Tapping on managed services also leaves the maintenance and upgrading of security systems to the service provider, reducing costs of maintenance and allowing organizations to focus on their core business operations.

Where to go from here?

COVID-19 was a painful reminder that the inconceivable can and has happened, more than anyone can anticipate. The reality is that leaders have to accept that the pandemic has been the catalyst to transforming their approach towards managing their respective businesses. Rather than playing a waiting game for “things to return to normal”, businesses would do well to capitalize on the opportunities the pandemic has created, with accelerated advancements in leading-edge technology and systems at the fore. 
In these uncertain times, the risks are great and the stakes are high, but along with it comes new opportunities for the taking, and it starts with a healthy, resilient workforce.

Ademco Security Group is one of Asia’s leading security providers, serving and safeguarding people, processes and technology of more than 8,000 institutions since 1977. With a regional footprint that extends across Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, China, Vietnam, and India, Ademco’s security solutions and integrated service offerings can be found in military bases, government facilities, financial institutions, and chemical, oil, and gas installations.

With our long history and extensive partner network, Ademco Security Group is well positioned to meet the increasingly challenging demands in Asia’s ever-changing security landscape with our suite of innovative and technologically-driven solutions. For enquiries about Ademco’s managed services, VERIFSuite, please email us here or contact us directly.
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