Your Questions About Reopening Your Office, Answered

What you need to know about going back to work

As cities and states across the country begin to lift shelter-in-place orders, workplaces are taking steps to return to a new normal — with safety first. So how can business owners and property managers bring workers back into the nation’s office buildings in the safest way possible?

At Kastle, we’ve spent years researching and developing technology designed to keep offices as safe and secure as possible. For months now, we have been thinking through what it would take to make employees feel comfortable when their offices reopen.

Here’s what you need to know:

1)  If my city or state ends its shelter-in-place order, will I go back to work right away?

Not necessarily. Independent businesses are making their own decisions on how and when they want to reopen. It’s safe to say though that most businesses won’t immediately return to their previous ways of working. Expect to see new protocols in place — such as requiring employees to wear masks, limiting the number of employees in a space at a time, increasing the number of cleanings or staggering arrival and departure times — designed to limit the spread of the virus.

2)  I work in a large office building. What do I need to know?

Large office buildings, particularly those in dense areas, face unique challenges in reopening. They’re filled with high-touch spaces, including doors, sign-in counters, elevator buttons, and restrooms, as well as spaces where groups of people congregate. Tackling each of these concerns will require an integrated approach. It’s not enough to just make doors touchless or to enforce social distancing policies. We’ll need to do all that and more for a safe return.  A more holistic approach will include specific efforts in the office environment to ensure proper screening of those sick and with symptoms of illness, touchless access in key areas, monitoring and controlling of occupant density and contact tracing.

3)  How should my office manage those high-touch spaces?

To prevent the spread of Covid-19, touchless controls should be considered as the new standard. Existing technology, such as our KastlePresence® app that is already used in many commercial buildings, makes wireless, touchless access possible. It uses a Bluetooth signal to unlock the doors, trigger motorized doors, enable turnstile entry, call elevators and more. Advanced visitor management systems can pre-register guests and deliver QR codes to scan for touchless entry at their scheduled arrival times.

4)  I know social distancing is important. How will we do it in my office?

Keeping workers safely spread apart is critical in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Every office will be different, but some obvious options include staggering worker schedules for different times and days, limiting the number of workers in a building or space, arranging desks with greater separation, and the like. Real-time monitoring and technology can enhance these efforts by controlling access and signaling managers when occupancy thresholds are exceeded.

Advanced access control systems, or key card systems, can be used to schedule staggered arrival times for individual workers so their credential only works at certain times. They can also enforce visitor access restrictions. And, these systems can monitor the entries and exits of a space to ensure that too many people aren’t in a space simultaneously.

5)  How can we make sure people infected with Covid-19 don’t enter our office space?

Screening employees, vendors and visitors at entry points for potential illness will likely become commonplace as companies reopen. The methods will range from app-enabled questionnaires and temperature checks to new thermal imaging cameras capable of detecting high body temperatures.

The results of screening can be integrated with key cards or access credentials to screen out individuals presenting with symptoms or known to be infected. Alternatively, the same system can be used to automatically grant access to, or screen in, people who have the antibody test results showing they’re healthy.

6)  Even with all of these procedures in place, what should my building do if an employee tests positive for Covid-19?

First, the building should immediately revoke the access rights of the infected individual so they can’t re-enter the office until they are Covid-free.

Then, contact tracing must begin. Using Access Control technology, buildings can determine who has been in the same space as the infected person, so they can be informed and potentially quarantined as well. Further, if intelligent camera systems are installed, they can be used to identify sustained interactions between the infected person and others.

7)  Is it enough if just my company or floor puts these procedures in place?

Unfortunately, there will still be risk from non-participating building occupants. While doing something is better than nothing, from what we know about this virus, it can spread from floor to floor or company to company as employees share elevators or meet in the lobby. While many building operators will wisely take a holistic building-wide approach, some operators will likely leave screening procedures up to tenants, and an office building is only as safe as its lowest common denominator.

8)  How can an office balance safety and privacy?

Offices will need to do their due diligence to protect their employees by guarding the data that may be collected to safely reopen. At Kastle, we are taking this issue very seriously. We are gathering information in order to create the safest possible system for each building but will only store whether the individual holding that credential has passed the screen, whatever the chosen method, and had been granted access rights that day or not. The information stored will not the underlying health information on which that pass has been granted.