5 min read

The Role of Access Control in Managing Pandemic Protocols

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How can access control systems help make workplaces safer and healthier?


In countless ways, large and small, COVID-19 has changed the way the workplace operates. From an increase in remote work to masking and social distancing while on site, daily behaviors have had to shift in order to keep fellow staff and clients safe and healthy. 

As new variants continue to crop up and require ongoing caution, employers must implement measures for following pandemic protocols. While many concepts like spacing and staggering may seem simple on the surface, implementing many of these measures can result in logistical roadblocks and frustrating side effects. Fortunately, integrations with existing access control systems can allow for detailed tracking, reporting, and planning throughout physical spaces. 

Capacity Controls

One of the simplest, yet most effective, strategies for slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to minimize capacity in any given space in order to allow for physical distancing. Using access control systems, employers can plan and monitor for the appropriate number of people who should be allowed in any given room, based on the area of that room. 

With simple scanners and automated capacity caps for spaces like conference rooms, coworking spaces and common areas, organizations can better monitor and control how many people occupy a room at one time, thus making physical distancing much easier for staff to remain aware of throughout the day. 

In organizations such as doctor’s offices where waiting rooms and similar spaces can become full despite everyone’s best efforts, these systems can also come in handy for staying on top of capacity measurements and implementing processes like a tiered waiting protocol in which patients wait in their cars until a few minutes before their appointment. With more information and more control over how many people occupy a space at a time, adhering to recommendations and keeping health as a number one priority becomes much easier. 

Throttle Foot Traffic 

Throughout larger buildings that consist of various hallways, common areas, meeting spaces and shared offices, contact tracing and facilitating distancing can often come down to a more complicated endeavor than simply dividing the number of people in the building by the area. Fortunately, access control systems can also be used to throttle foot traffic and moderate appropriate spacing and timing throughout highly-trafficked hallways. 

Particularly in spaces like hospitals and university campuses, these measures can make a large impact in controlling the amount of people in any given space and allowing for consistent physical distancing. 

Control Directional Patterns

In addition to throttling the amount of foot traffic in any given space, access control systems can also be used to control directional patterns throughout a building’s spaces. This can work as a preventative measure to keep “traffic jams” from occurring. For example, if too many people are walking down a hallway in the same direction — perhaps heading to the cafeteria or a common space — then they get there and it’s too full, then the entire purpose of controlling the capacity of the room itself is defeated. The large group of people standing in the hallway is likely even more risky than a large group of people inside the room itself. 

Access control systems can also be used to restrict certain doorways so that staff and clients take an alternate route. This can create a designated and predictable flow of foot traffic and prevent people from coming face to face with one another as they cross paths in a hallway, further allowing them to accurately employ physical distancing efforts. 

Taking control of directional patterns of the foot traffic in a building is an especially proactive measure aiming to solve an ongoing pain point of the pandemic. Without measures like this, trying to follow pandemic protocols often results in the same crowds and more waiting, but in different spaces (i.e. lining up in hallways instead of waiting rooms). These well-intentioned processes often leave clients and staff feeling frustrated and ultimately fail to protect the health and safety of everyone in the building. Drilling down to details like foot traffic is the next step in pandemic protection protocol. 

Contact Tracing

Even when adhering to all recommendations and following protocol precisely, unfortunately there will come a day in every workplace when a member of staff tests positive for COVID-19. When COVID-19 cases do occur, the best measure for protecting other staff, visitors, and clients going forward is to utilize contact tracing methods in order to isolate contacts as appropriate. Isolating the correct people can mean the difference between an inconvenience and an outbreak. 

At the onset of the pandemic, many offices and classrooms had few options and had to isolate entire floors or classes in order to ensure that exposed individuals were not spreading the virus to others after the first case was detected. 

While this certainly helped to slow the spread of the virus and was the best procedure available at the time, it also kept many people from work and school needlessly. For example, if masks were worn properly by all parties and someone was working across the room, 50 feet away from the infected staff member, then they were not technically exposed and could have skipped the isolation period. However, inaccurate and incomplete data made it impossible to pinpoint affected individuals, especially while protecting the privacy of the infected person. 

Now, access control technology can come into play in pinpointing more specific locations of staff members. This way, it’s possible to determine which staff members were truly at risk of exposure. More accurate isolation protocols can help keep workflow operating as desired while still ensuring the ongoing safety of staff and clients, as well as compliance with all official health guidance. 

Reporting and Analysis

No matter how much effort an organization dedicates to pandemic safety, the needs and logistics associated with these protocols are new to most everyone. There will always be gaps and room for improvement. As priorities and preventative measures in response to the pandemic continue to shift and change, the ability to look back on health and safety efforts and analyze data strategically will allow offices and campuses to take a more targeted approach to future actions. Combining data from video security and access control checkpoints will help to highlight pain points from past systems and push organizations forward in addressing areas that don’t meet health and safety standards. 

Access to detailed reports not only allows for ongoing improvement and troubleshooting but can also act as a tool for confirming compliance with state and federal mandates, should the need arise to provide documentation that all protocols have been closely followed. 

In addition to enhancing the physical safety of organizations across industries, access control systems can act as powerful tools for precision and proactivity in pandemic safety. Through capabilities like controlling capacity in offices, throttling foot traffic through common spaces and hallways, controlling directional patterns, contact tracing, and reporting, these systems can allow organizations to operate with more detail and care in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on their premises. 

To learn more about what a sophisticated access control system can do for you, schedule a call today.