The office isn’t going away, so we need to make it secure.

An image of , Security & Data, The office isn’t going away, so we need to make it secure.

It didn’t take long for the conversation to shift. Only a few months after articles such as The Death of the Office appeared in the Economist, rebuttals swiftly followed, such as Death of the Office has been greatly exaggerated in The Times.

Yes, we were witnessing the change, both short-term to protect people from the spread of a deadly virus, but also an acceleration of longer-term shifts towards home working enabled by new technologies. But some of the more excitable futurists were off the mark—the office remains a vital part of working life, partly because of employer demands but also because employees want some separation between home and work.

There are outliers—some employers have demanded a full return to the office, others have embraced remote working completely, and of course, some work cannot be done remotely—but for many, hybrid working is the best compromise and the future of work.

At a first glance, allowing employees to work from home may seem as simple as managers granting permission. In practice, however, many businesses have come to realize that hybrid working isn’t simple to “switch on”. Technological solutions are required to manage the security and non-security aspects of the hybrid work model.

Persistent threats

It’s important to keep in mind that businesses aren’t on a defined trajectory when it comes to hybrid working. For every business reducing physical office space, there’s a business adding physical office space. Predictions of widespread corporate square footage downsizing by futurists should be treated with some caution, given the rise in flex-space usage of traditional office space and the allocation of more square footage per workspace.

Individual businesses are on their own hybrid working journey, but one truth is universal – hybrid working poses unique security challenges. These include increased physical risks, credential sharing risks, inappropriate access or managing inconsistent access attempts. Businesses I’ve spoken to over the last few years have unfortunately found out about these threats and pressure points the hard way.

Being serious about putting hybrid working practices in place must mean taking its attached security challenges seriously. The positive thing is that the businesses we’re speaking to are putting new solutions in place to handle the shift to hybrid working. Of the 557 security and facilities professionals surveyed for Brivo’s Top Security Trends 2022 report, almost half have added tools and technology solutions to manage hybrid working in the past twelve months. The three most popular solutions were linked to visitor management, upgraded access control, and biometrics. You might be thinking that these solutions aren’t strictly security related, and that’s correct. Tightening physical access to the office doesn’t just improve security. It gives employees a more positive, convenient experience in the physical workplace through technology. Technology has a massive role to play in managing unpredictable footfall levels and ensuring a smooth experience for employees, whether it’s one or ten people in the office.

Getting the most out of the shiny new toy

It’s heartening to know that businesses are taking measures to make hybrid working a success by implementing technology to accommodate new work patterns. The introduction of these solutions into the workplace gives businesses a major strategic advantage beyond security concerns. Specifically, the availability of new data sources that can be used to make other operational improvements.

Access events, anomalous activities, and security video streams, to name a few, have business value beyond their primary use for security forensics. These can be used by managers to understand how employees are utilizing physical space and make better-informed decisions about space planning in the future. For security professionals, these insights are the gold dust needed to optimize physical security and procedures.

To successfully capture these valuable insights, businesses need to centralize their data.In practice, this means adopting hybrid working solutions, like Access Control Management platforms, that integrate with existing systems and applications. Tying technology together delivers all sorts of potential benefits – further automation, enhanced capabilities, smoother user experiences, and, of course, data centralization.

This links back to the frequently heard advice for businesses to remove their data silos. The logic being that disjointed data and processes negatively impact security operations and other business functions. According to a KPMG survey, just 35% of business executives have a high level of trust in their organization’s use of different types of analytics. This isn’t good. Particularly as data is becoming more and more central to effective business decision-making. Senior leaders can make a positive move to remove data silos today by centralizing the solutions rolled out to support hybrid working.

Making the right choice

Remote working is more than a trend, but the office is still going strong. Hybrid working is the future for a lot of businesses, and it’s positive to see serious adjustments taking place in security operations to match this shift.

Procuring the right security solutions will boost security but also enable businesses to deliver smooth digital experiences for employees and centralize data to enhance decision-making.

Modern access management solutions go beyond your standard lock or alarm system. Businesses should recognize this and reap the rewards now and for the future.

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Russ Kennedy • 04th July 2023

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