It’s amazing that a microscopic virus could virtually bring the world to a standstill. The 2020 global pandemic has reshaped the way people work, learn and play on every conceivable level. In addition to the devastating impact on global health and safety, COVID-19 has infected the health of the global economy. While many of us have been fortunate enough to shift our workplace from the office to home, not everyone has had that privilege, causing financial malaise for myriad employers and employees alike. Hence, businesses and organizations across every vertical are faced with a new challenge: how to get people back to work safely, efficiently and in compliance with state and local mandates.

The growing call to return to work will surely accelerate many of the social distancing, sterilization and occupancy issues that we are currently facing. Hopefully, modern medicine will rise to the challenge sooner than later with a COVID-19 vaccine, but this may take some time even with accelerated testing and approvals. These challenges need new technology now.

The truth of the matter is that many businesses and organizations already have the technology foundations they need in place – primarily in the form of access control systems. Once perceived and implemented strictly for its security benefits, access control has been taking on a whole new role as a business tool for workforce management – even prior to the pandemic – now with a heightened interest focused on touchless access solutions. By employing touchless credentials such as biometrics, proximity devices, or mobile credentialing, existing and new access control systems can easily be enhanced to provide a fast and efficient means of allowing authorized individuals hands-free entry and egress to a facility helping prevent the spread of contagions that can impact the health of both individuals and businesses.

Taking the role of access control further, platforms with open architecture can integrate new thermal detection solutions to instantly identify the surface temperature of individuals. This can provide fast initial indication of an identified individual’s well-being for further investigation by designated personnel or to trigger some other action, such as denying physical access. There are even new algorithms available that average multiple individuals body surface temperatures to account for warm environments that may artificially raise one’s exterior surface temperature. Although not perfected yet, access control systems with thermal sensors or cameras provide a new first line of defense that transcends the primary security benefits these systems were initially implemented to provide.

And although the fear of the current pandemic will eventually pass, the possibility of another will remain fresh on everyone’s mind sustaining the need for on-going safeguards and protections.

Beyond these new health safety benefits, access control alleviates many of the longstanding challenges associated with workplace efficiency as it relates to employee scheduling, time tracking, leave management, payroll and staffing audits by providing vital metrics for labor intensive operations at locations like factories, distribution centers, food processing plants and construction sites.


Long-Standing Challenges

A recent survey conducted by Intuit shows that 38 percent of all tracking systems are outdated, employing either paper timesheets or traditional punch clocks. This deficiency breeds inherent security and payroll issues, according to responses from employees in this survey. For example, more than 16 percent of the respondents admitted to buddy punching (clocking in for another employee), and more than 75 percent said they have made corrections to their own timesheets. Another 50 percent admitted to time theft and 25 percent copped to working off the clock.

The research is even more compelling when organizations account for the cost of fraudulent practices like buddy punching and time theft. Buddy punching alone costs U.S. employers more than $373 million each year. The latest data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics indicates that there are more than 78 million hourly workers in the American workforce and if 16 percent add 15 minutes to a co-workers timesheet via buddy punching, annual payroll expenses explode with fraudulent cost overages. Buddy punching is time theft that can severely impact SMBs typically running with tight margins. The study estimates that curbing time theft can save U.S. employers $11 billion per year. That’s a lot of profit margin down the drain.

A recent article from payroll giant ADP also reports that employee time theft is costing businesses billions of dollars every year in lost productivity and unnecessary overtime. This practice, where workers pad their paychecks with hours they did not work because they arrived late, left early or spent large parts of the day on the phone, can be a tremendous hamper to the organization's bottom line. The same applies to overtime pay.

Because many companies employ hourly employees, access control systems employing biometrics offer significant increases in productivity and payroll accounting with tangible ROI. For most large enterprise operations, employees are their most precious commodity and payroll is usually the single biggest expense. If the goal is an accurate, cost-effective and seamless workforce management solution, then access control systems with new biometric and sensory enhancements provide the pragmatic solution for new and longstanding workforce management applications.