EXCLUSIVE: Essential physical security for flex space

Flex space in office

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Today’s office space needs key and asset management technology to keep employees and assets safe and secure, writes Morse Watchmans.

Modern work

Commercial real estate landlords are challenged more now than ever with unpredictable building occupancy due to the acceleration of remote and hybrid work environments that proliferated after the pandemic.

Untethered from physical office buildings and time-consuming commutes, many workers are also choosing to live in ideal “dream locations”, changing the workplace and commercial real estate landscape as we once knew it.

As a result of flex space trends, employers are now continually evaluating how much workspace is required for their overall footprint, while commercial property owners and landlords strive to fill empty and underoccupied buildings.

With the significant increase in remote and hybrid work options, the demand for flex and coworking office space is currently driving the commercial real estate market.

According to Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA International), “30% of all office space will be flexible by 2032 – and large corporate occupiers will be driving much of the demand.”

Flex and coworking space defined

So, what is coworking and flex space? Commercial developer JLL’s 2021 Global Flexible Space Report defines flex space as “pre-built work environments available for short durations through a streamlined transaction process.”

Flex space provides greater options in lease terms, which is beneficial when businesses are going through transitions with business locations and employee recruiting.

Coworking is an extension of flex space; provider WeWork defines coworking spaces as “an environment that’s designed to accommodate people from different companies who come to do work.

Coworking space is characterized by shared facilities, services and tools and shared infrastructure to reduce overhead costs.”

Flex and coworking solutions are ideal when working from home is not the most conducive environment for employees due to a lack of a sense of community, distractions or spotty and slow Wi-Fi.

Coworking and flex space have perks and merits, such as near or on-site amenities, social events, state-of-the art office environments and equipment, team and talent collaborations and interaction with employees from other businesses, yet they are not environments without physical security challenges.

Physical security and safety concerns

Employers need to keep their employees safe and employees need to feel safe while they take up coworking and flex space to perform their jobs.

According to the 2020 commercial real estate Clutch Report, Top Benefits and Challenges of Coworking Spaces, 23% of employees say security and safety concerns are challenges.

No matter what the office environment, the physical layout of office buildings and workspace always need physical security to protect assets and people.

Protecting assets and people in flex space

Key management and asset management security technology solutions provide protection and peace of mind to flex and coworking employees.

Coworking and flex space constantly change with a continual ebb and flow of employees from disparate places of employment, which leaves workers wondering if they can trust everyone else around them and feeling the need to secure their personal belongings, even when they get up for something as routine as a restroom break.

Laptops, access control cards, cell phones, wallets, car keys, purses, cash, prescription medications, sensitive business documents and retail items purchased during lunch breaks need security under lock and key.

Office layout changes and buildouts also require substantial physical security needs.

Theft, vandalism, climate and natural events, terrorism and sabotage are also reasons why protection for the critical infrastructure, including data server rooms, computer hardware, sensitive documents and information need security as well.

A security solution for mechanical keys and assets

Office space environments and office buildings have hundreds to thousands of keys and door locks. Keys need to be safeguarded and accounted for and used only by authorized individuals to secure and protect assets and people within.

These systems provide safekeeping of mechanical keys and provide data about shared office space usage to commercial property managers with reporting and audit trails that are available at any time.

Predetermined authorized users are assigned PIN codes, access cards, biometrics or a combination of any of these to gain access to keys that belong to their office suites, individual office, desk drawers, safes and even locker modules built into the key management system to secure laptops, mobile phones, tablets, sensitive equipment, documents and more.

Asset locker systems operate the same way as key control systems. Users can access only the items from the locker for which they have been pre-authorized.

Whenever individual keys or groups of keys are removed and returned to the key control cabinet, data is recorded by the system’s software as to which keys were removed and returned, who removed and returned them and which cabinet it came from and was returned to.

All these recorded data points deliver insight into office flex space usage and traffic patterns to landlords and provides audit trail reports on demand as needed.

Key control policy and operational benefits

Key control and asset management implementation in coworking and flex space means property managers need to prepare a few basic steps before being fully operational.

The first step is to audit the building and office suites, identifying all access points and installed locks. The next step is to determine who needs access, including employees, vendors and maintenance crews.

After that, assign keys to authorized individuals only for the areas they need access to. Lastly, establish a key control policy, provide education and training, as well as audit and update it regularly when there are changes to the building.

Access to key and asset cabinets can be customized with a keypad, fingerprint reader or facial recognition biometrics and magnetic or proximity card reader.

Proximity card readers can often use the same access control cards that have already been issued throughout the organization for convenient multi-purpose security system access control implementation.

Adding and removing users from the key control system is quick and easy for system administrators either in person or remotely.

Today’s key control and asset management solutions enable connectivity across multiple security and safety systems, such as access control, video surveillance and intrusion detection systems, for efficient integration and shared data.

These open protocols allow for streamlined processes and eliminate redundancies across common data points. For example, employees who enter their credentials into the access control system will have their profile information instantly transferred to all other systems.

System administrators can also receive pre-programmed notifications and alerts, allowing them full communication features, such as when keys are overdue being returned.

If necessary, administrators can remotely disable user privileges to deny a user egress from the building, for example, if keys have not been accounted for and returned.

Key and asset management reduces occupancy rates

Key control systems provide enhanced security and convenience, as well as increased staff productivity and accountability.

Investing in key control and asset management locker systems reduces financial risk and adds value to the workspace for all tenants and prospective tenants for all commercial properties, including coworking and flex space.

Maximizing the features and benefits of key control and asset management technology will maximize the usage and value of this security technology investment.

Mechanical keys should be treated as assets and not overlooked so they are better managed and secured to reduce the risk of theft and vandalism within office flex space.

This will help drive down expenses associated with occupancy rates and help to keep the physical security environment safe and desirable for all tenants.

This article was originally published in the August edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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