Traction Guest announced research that reveals the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employee safety and security as employees return to the workplace. Despite intentions of returning to onsite operations in 2020, many employees remain concerned about their organization’s plans to ensure their health and safety. In June 2020, Traction Guest did a two-part survey consisting of 300 employees and 300 enterprise risk management, physical security and facilities management professionals in companies with at least 1,000 employees.

“As people return to the workplace, enterprises must create a safe environment that reassures employees that their health and wellbeing are protected and a top priority,” said Keith Metcalfe, CEO of Traction Guest. “In light of COVID-19, organizations face challenges in rebuilding employee resilience, trust and communication patterns. This has sparked a massive shift in how businesses think about employees’ physical safety. That’s not just employee to employee, but employee to customer, employee to vendor and employee to partner. All of those interactions suddenly carry new levels of risk.”

Employee concerns rise as physical workplaces reopen

The Traction Guest survey found that 84 percent of employees are somewhat or very concerned about going to their organization’s office, warehouse or physical worksite for the remainder of 2020. A similar number (85 percent) of respondents cited that their physical health and safety in the workplace is a greater consideration now than before the pandemic.

Despite growing concerns among employees, 15 percent reportedly do not know if their company has introduced new technology to help ensure employee health and safety. Another 39 percent of employees cited that their company has not introduced any new health and safety technology, leaving a large number of employees at risk.

To address employee concern about the return to work, many organizations have proactively begun adopting new technology solutions to keep their staff safe. In fact, 45 percent of employees noted their company has already adopted new technology for employee health and safety. Among the technologies that employees believe would make them feel more comfortable returning to a physical workplace, respondents cited touchless sign-in technology (54 percent), which entails not having to touch a sign-in device, kiosk or security access control system upon entering the facility.

Most enterprise facilities lack touchless technologies

According to employees, many workplaces have still not taken measures to ensure their facility is fully contactless – a growing issue in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. Only 4 percent of employees report their company’s facility is fully touchless, meaning 96 percent of employees are still required to touch surfaces and devices just to enter their place of work. These include: door handles (82 percent), access control systems like keypads (46 percent), elevator buttons (43 percent), and sign-in devices or kiosks (31 percent), among other responses. Of note, respondents who cited they have to touch a sign-in device or kiosk upon entry were also the most likely (67 percent) to say that touchless sign-in technology would make them feel more comfortable returning to their physical worksite.

For 41 percent of employees, their companies are currently offering or plan to offer touchless sign-in for their facility, an important step to reduce transmission of the coronavirus. However, for 34 percent of employees, they still don’t know if their company will offer touchless sign-in in the near term. Another 25 percent report their company has no current plans to offer touchless entry.

Security and risk professionals are at the frontline of the safe return to work

The COVID-19 pandemic has spurred C-level executives to recognize that insufficient health and safety protocols expose not just their people but their businesses to grave risk. As a result, the C-suite is more focused on physical security than ever before. Security and risk management professionals today have been mandated to keep facilities safe and operational, and are being propelled into a strategic position within the enterprise.

This phenomenon is evident in the research: 92 percent of security and risk management professionals report that physical security is of greater strategic importance to their organization now than it was before the pandemic. Additionally, nearly two in three respondents (62 percent) cited that the frequency of direct interaction between C-level executives and the physical security function within the company is higher than before COVID-19.

To address the growing concerns of employees and the C-suite, 87 percent of companies surveyed plan to increase spending on physical security going forward. The top physical security investments planned for the next 6 to 12 months include: touchless sign-in, security access control systems, temperature checking devices and cameras. Furthermore, 91 percent of companies surveyed noted they currently offer or soon plan to offer touchless sign-in for their facility – a fact that must be appropriately communicated to employees, many of whom are still uninformed about current and upcoming policies for contactless sign-in and entry. Respondents who had already implemented touchless sign-in were 10 percent more likely than their peers to report a higher level of direct interaction with C-level executives.

Physical security rises to the same prominence as cybersecurity

According to 52 percent of respondents, physical security has become a greater concern than cybersecurity since the onset of COVID-19. Respondents who had already implemented touchless sign-in were 11 percent more likely to agree that physical security had become a greater concern than cybersecurity at their organization.