< Back to Blog

Punching in for greater insight

June 21, 2024 by Alistair Enser

A reminder that my survey on facial recognition is still running for a little longer, and I would value your opinion on the subject. At present, nearly nine in ten of you support the use of facial recognition technology in policing, border control and similar applications. The survey can be found here, and takes only a minute to complete!

Separately, my attention was grabbed last week by a story in the Financial Times about EY. Apparently, the professional services firm has been using data from its access control system – such as turnstiles activated with access-control cards – to gauge whether staff are using offices.

The article quoted someone at the firm saying that “the statistics would be used in parts of the business as a ‘carrot rather than a stick’ to influence teams to comply with EY’s hybrid working guidelines.” It appears that at least 50 per cent of some teams are failing to meet EY’s policy of staff being office-based at least two days a week.

As this article is about the use of technology to provide Value Beyond Security itself, as is the case with EY’s (anonymised) turnstile and access-card data, I don’t want to get too far into a thorny debate around hybrid working, and working from home, as this is clearly a business by business and personnel discussion. But I have no doubt of the benefits that security systems may bring to the debate, the data and driving the insights of working practices.

Clearly, many firms kept going throughout the pandemic on the basis of staff working from home, as was essential, but it doesn’t mean it was optimal. As the world has reopened firms as varied as Tesla, Apple, Amazon and Google now want workers back in the office for at least some ‘significant’ amount of the time. In the case of Google, staff are asked to work from the office for at least three days a week, while Tesla’s Elon Musk has said, in his usual characteristic way, that “the office is not optional.”

I appreciate that working from home offers parents, for example, flexibility around childcare, and that lengthy commutes can be a pain. However, there is increasing debate around whether working from home is actually damaging younger people, who are missing out and failing to develop key skills by not being immersed in the office environment, as well as limiting effective communication and teamwork, through lack of personal interaction, subsequently affecting business success.

It’s a complicated issue, and every business will have its own requirements. What is in no doubt, however, is that through their HR and GDPR policies EY likely has every right to look at its access control data to understand how its offices are being used, by how many workers, and when. This is a perfect example of using security technology to gain operational insights, refine working policies and dedicate the appropriate resources to support a business, whether that is managing hybrid working practices, or optimising workspace to match

I imagine some might believe EY’s approach smacks of ‘big brother’, and see it as a technological development too far. I would disagree entirely and would point to the age-old adoption of another form of workplace technology: the time clock on a factory floor. Workers (historically, most of them ‘blue-collar’) were required to punch in and out of these machines at either end of the day or during breaks. The technology in EY’s offices may be smarter, but it’s literally the same function.

With this in mind, EY’s use of access control data is hardly new. What’s more, while many firms may not regularly review the timekeeping habits of their employees, I have no doubt that over the last ten years, many HR investigations into, for example, ‘poor timekeeping’ would have involved querying the data.

So, ask yourself this question. Are you utilising your security systems in the best way possible and gaining Value Beyond Security? If not, come and talk to Reliance High-Tech to learn how we might help make your valuable investment even more attractive.