5 Practical Ways To Manage Your Visitor Operations During The COVID-19 Outbreak

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Retailers, offices, and other workspaces worldwide are going remote in an effort to combat the transmission of the coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) and protect their employees. However for workers and facilities deemed “essential”, remote work is simply not an option.

Right now, security leaders - from healthcare to food and beverage organizations - are facing an array of challenges due to the coronavirus outbreak. Regardless of the nature of the organization, employers are increasingly concerned about their visitor operations. Manufacturers need to maintain a safe flow of contractors, delivery personnel, and suppliers essential to their operations move in and out of the facility.

Amidst this pandemic, one of the most prominent questions top of mind are ‘How can I stay open but also prevent coronavirus transmission in my employees and facilities?’ Using research and guidelines from WHO, we've put together strategies and tips to help you manage your visitor operations during the coronavirus outbreak to help keep your business running smoothly.

Ask the right questions

While many things in both our personal lives and the world of business have changed due to the rapidly evolving coronavirus outbreak, the need to preserve the privacy and sanctity of personal healthcare data has not. Above all, when screening visitors for potential coronavirus signs or symptoms, protecting their privacy and safeguarding their personal identifiable information (PII) should be on the top of your priority list.

Screening should start before a visitor even identifies themselves to you, so if they do not meet the criteria to enter the building your business is not storing their PII. Examples of questions that you should be asking your visitors include:

* Have you traveled out of the country in the past 14 days? If so, please select the countries that apply.
* Have you experienced fever-like symptoms such as cough or shortness of breath?
* Have you recently had contact with any person(s) that is/are confirmed or suspected of having fever or flu-like symptoms?

The travel question should be evaluated frequently according to your organization’s safety policy and regional public health agency recommendations. For example, visitors would not be allowed to enter the facility if a level 3 - 4 country is selected (classified by WHO as “high risk - do not travel”). If a level 1 - 2 country (classified as “exercise caution”) is selected, there would be a secondary evaluation and an alert to an EHS team sent out. As for the symptoms question, if yes is selected for either, the visitor should not be allowed into the facility to prevent potential coronavirus transmission.

1. Implement invite-first process

Asking screening questions ahead of time, before visitors arrived on-site can streamline the sign-in process and help avoid coronavirus transmission by collecting visitor information before an individual even enters the building. This is also beneficial for visitors requiring certification validation like contractors. An invitation with a QR code can be generated that can be scanned and used to log their arrival at the facility.

Again for this option, we highly advise against using a paper logbook or having your receptionist log visitor information on an excel sheet or in another digital document. The purpose of “invite-first” is to minimize contact with your front desk staff and other objects in and around the lobby. If using a paper logbook or otherwise, the visitor will have to go up to the front desk staff and let them know that they’ve pre-registered in advance.

If you are not using a VMS, consider adding it to your process to minimize the chances of coronavirus transmission and protect your visitors and employees.

2. Minimize areas of contact

One of the biggest factors of coronavirus transmission is human-to-human contact - having your visitors communicate information to your front desk staff may be putting them at risk of infection. VMS eliminates the need for physical proximity and minimizes the areas that need to be sanitized.

A VMS allows visitors to receive an invitation and later scan a QR code from the sign-in station. The information is then automatically logged into the system and an alert is sent to the corresponding host.

3. Disinfect after every use

A recent study shows the coronavirus can last for up to 24 hours on cardboard, 2-3 days on plastic and stainless steel. If you’re currently using a logbook to record visitors, keep in mind that you will need to disinfect the sign-in book, pens, and counter.

If your visitor operations processes include a visitor management system (VMS), with a visitor screening flow on an iPad, you’ll need to regularly disinfect the kiosk. Disinfecting an iPad using alcohol-based screen wipes is much easier than disinfecting a paper logbook and pen.

Keep in mind that taking measures to avoid the coronavirus goes beyond the front lobby. Remember to frequently clean and disinfect other areas and objects in the facility. While your workplace may already have these guidelines in place, when dealing with an outbreak like the coronavirus that is highly transmissible and contagious, objects that are frequently touched (e.g. doorknobs, light switches, etc.) should be cleaned twice as often as usual. Additional care should be taken to prevent on-site visits if screening information does not meet safety requirements. Invite-first approach needs to become a part of the visitor operations process.

4. Go Virtual

While all these measures are best practices to avoid coronavirus transmission, the best way to protect your facility is to try and move as many meetings as possible from in-person to virtual. For many essential services, this may not be possible and there will be some types of visitors that will provide services supporting site operations. It is important to be able to differentiate between a pre-approved essential visitor, and to provide an ability to an alternative “virtual” meeting option for everyone else.

Although essential workers may be needed to keep the lights on, try listing your business processes and see if it’s possible to minimize the number of people in the facility. Are administrative staff able to go remote and take virtual meetings with occasional visits to your commercial facility, only if absolutely needed? Are your medical staff technologically equipped to take appointments through telemedicine? Is there a possible way to use co-browsing to triage potential queries or service requests before your communications personnel schedule an appointment to come to a client’s home?

5. Wrap-up

The coronavirus outbreak has understandably escalated concerns when it comes to how organizations manage visitors. The pandemic has made it crucial for workplaces to prevent unnecessary human-to-human contact and potential coronavirus transmission incidents. Businesses need to alter the way they check-in, track, and collect information in order to protect visitors and employees from potential exposure to coronavirus.

Use these five preventative measures to ensure the coronavirus does not become a risk to employees, contractors, or facilities. Ensure that you communicate to visitors that their health and safety - along with that of your staff - is your highest priority. Screening everybody that comes through your door and denying entry to individuals who might pose a risk to the business is a necessary practice.

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