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Who’s in, and who is out?

May 20, 2024 by Alistair Enser

The new world of work continues to present challenges. Some of them are practical issues: rising energy costs present a real problem for office-based businesses, as they must ensure that offices that may be only 20% occupied for some of the week are ready and accessible for those days when workers do go back in.

With the price of electricity still not far off its recent, record high, leaving the lights and heating on 24/7 simply isn’t an option – but as bosses ask workers to come back to the office for at least some of the week, there needs to be some element of “business as usual.” Managing this is proving trickier than anticipated, and is creating some new security risks that need to be addressed.

Do you know who is in the office?

Hybrid working is creating new security risks that organisations need to be wise to. Fire Marshalls are typically required in the workplace under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order of 2005. These individuals are essential to guide workers and facilitate an efficient evacuation of a space in the event of a fire.

Yet under our new hybrid working practices, how confident can bosses be that there is a designated Fire Marshall on their premises at any one time? Directors have a personal responsibility for the safety of their workers, and failing to ensure a Fire Marshall, First Aid Responder or nominated Health and Safety individual is in the office at all times could leave them open to prosecution in the event of an incident.

A simple solution to this is leveraging the building’s Access Control system. Doing so allows HR, facilities or office managers to tag workers with Fire Marshall or First Aid training, for example, manage which days they work from the office to ensure adequate cover at all times; and even provide evidence of their presence at the office in the event of an incident.

Access all areas?

We have seen other risks emerging in offices as organisations embrace hybrid working, with increasing reports of “tailgating” in offices. This involves unauthorised persons gaining access to a workplace by simply squeezing in behind someone at an entrance turnstile or automated gate.

For a financial services firm, an unauthorised individual on a trading floor, or in a data room with access to personal, company and financial information could be disastrous, not only from a regulatory and financial point of view but also in terms of corporate reputation. When we think of cyber security, we imagine hackers gaining remote access to a corporate network from far away. But the reality is often far simpler and less prosaic – someone wanders in off the street, gains access to an office space and removes a laptop or ‘jacks into’ a machine on the inside of the network. Even a USB drive stolen from a workplace can be a mine of valuable data. Wouldn’t happen to you? Well, let me be clear, these things are happening every day somewhere.

Sometimes these individuals don’t even need to tailgate to gain access – after two years of working from home and many personnel changes, office workers may not be familiar with the co-workers now sharing their office space. So, when asked to let someone unfamiliar yet apparently trustworthy into the office as they claim to have forgotten their ID card, many would do so.

At Reliance High-Tech, we have multiple solutions that will help; whether assisting the hybrid work model for ensuring key personnel such as Fire Marshalls are on site, integrating with BMS to improve Energy Efficiency or digitising tailgating using Analytics to provide more robust security while respecting free flow of people traffic without unnecessarily installing turnstiles.

The answer is not only technology, though, as explained above, but also a revision to processes and systems, so that workers returning to the office once again understand their responsibility to challenge unknown people – and to appreciate that letting someone unfamiliar in without a card isn’t doing them a favour, but creating a security risk for the entire organisation!

If you need help ensuring only the right people are in your workplace, contact Reliance High-Tech at info@reliancehightech.co.uk.