Approaches to improving employee wellbeing have evolved over recent years. A laser focus on culture among many organisations has led to various initiatives being put in place to encourage a greater level of job satisfaction, providing the necessary mental health support to ensure workforces feel protected, happy, motivated.
Flexible and hybrid working is one of these initiatives – leading to an increase in productivity and heightened staff morale for many companies, as they encourage employees to balance their careers with everyday commitments outside of work, regardless of location.
However, while the world of working continues to evolve, how do all these measures ensure people feel protected and safe in their working environments, no matter where they log-on in the world? Because, even with so many initiatives in place, if employees still feel vulnerable, this not only poses a significant risk to staff welfare but it impacts an organisation on a greater scale.
In truth, while security has always been a priority for many businesses, have some approaches to employee wellbeing also created new risks?
Securing the workplace in 2023
With many pandemic restrictions now lifted across the globe, it’s clear that hybrid working models are here to stay. According to recent data from the Office for National Statistics, 16% of UK employees now work solely from home, and a further 28% continue to operate within a hybrid model. Global statistics also show that employees spend, on average, 1.5 days working from home each week.
However, with such a shift in working patterns, while the benefits are clear, there are still many challenges leaders and IT teams must tackle head-on. Employers not only have to trust that their employees can maintain productivity while away from the office, but they must also invest in securing digital estates to ensure that wherever and whenever employees are logged on, there are safety measures in place – for both the employee and their organisation. This is a significant challenge as companies have to respond to increased digital threats and apply enterprise security to a variety of settings that they might not have initially anticipated.
Alongside this, there are obstacles in relation to physical access that are said to be worrying workers. For example, even before the pandemic, findings from the Society of Human Resource Management revealed that roughly one in seven Americans didn’t feel safe at work.
While the scale of the challenge is huge, it’s also not one to be ignored. Now more than ever, companies must assess their current security solutions and consider whether it provides a smart, secure workplace that supports both productivity and employee wellbeing.
Flexible workplaces and the trust factor
One of the biggest factors that underpins workplace security is human behaviour. And therefore, security – both digital and physical – is not solely down to the senior leadership team or the company’s IT department to manage.
It’s everybody’s responsibility to ensure safety and security in the workplace.
What does this mean from an organisational point of view? Helping employees to understand the importance of security in their company is imperative and can often be offered in the form of training and induction processes – particularly for new starters. However, it shouldn’t stop there. It takes more than a solitary training session to support the human element behind security. Where once instincts could be used to help workplace security, since hybrid working became the ‘norm’, there’s a risk that these have been eroded.
Under hybrid working models, seeing new faces in the workplace will be common. Previously, trust instincts might have kicked in and employees would have challenged unrecognisable visitors to the office, for example. However, today there’s a risk that they won’t notice or challenge them – and the bigger the organisation, the larger the risk. After all, it only takes one malicious person to exploit a vulnerability.
Addressing today’s workplace security challenges
With that said, while security remains high on the agenda for many business leaders, what are the next steps companies should take to examine their current security needs? A good starting point is to audit the level of access control and authentication methods already in place and challenge these measures. For example, leaders able to ask themselves, ‘what is the risk factor of our current authentication approaches?’ can prove to be pivotal in taking steps towards securing their workforce.
PIN pads and access cards might have previously been sufficient, but in today’s workplace ecosystem and the additional security challenges of hybrid working, they might not be meeting all the requirements of a modern-day organisation.
And traditional credentials are highly vulnerable. Cards and keys can often be lost or stolen, and PINs and passwords hacked, as well as seen by ‘shoulder surfers’, traded online, or breached through attacks. Even employees sharing credentials, although strongly discouraged, present a significant risk to workplace security. While PINs and passwords can be changed, this is a burden to both employees and security managers.
This is why organisations are turning to physical access control solutions that makes the user the key: biometrics. But how secure is biometric technology? While it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, it helps security also serve as a pillar for organisational efficiency, productivity and asset optimisation. Deploying biometrics also demonstrates a commitment to creating a smarter, more secure workplace dedicated to protecting employees.
Biometrics for a smarter workplace
When navigating biometrics in security strategies, the on-device approach-whereby the biometric data is stored, matched and authenticated securely within the device/card-facilitates integration. This removes the cost and burden of creating, maintaining and protecting a centralised database of credentials and minimises the risk of biometric data being hacked.
Biometric access cards have the added benefit of enabling converged access control, where users have the same card for any authentication use case throughout the workplace. For logical access, biometrics can be viewed as the first step in ‘Zero Trust’ strategies, which are attracting more attention in light of critical digital security challenges.
Additionally, beyond cards, as the IoT revolution evolves and the number of connected devices and smart buildings increases, smartphone biometrics can be leveraged as part of a smarter, integrated security strategy, helping to create a truly ‘next-generation’ smart workplace that meets modern-day requirements.
Significant changes to the way people are working means it’s vital that security and authentications approaches respond accordingly. Biometrics is one technology rising to the top, helping companies’ rapid transition to more robust security that doesn’t sacrifice convenience and helps to make employees feel protected.
Over the years, R&D developments have transformed biometrics in a way that means it’s now seen as a reliable, secure, effective, logical and physical access control solution – a stark contrast to the early days of easy spoofing and frustrated users. And it’s not ending there. Ongoing innovation will make biometrics increasingly sophisticated and open new use cases to transform access control for smart homes and workplaces.
Michel Roig is the President of Payment & Access at Fingerprint Cards AB. Previously Michel Roig was the Senior Vice President of Payment & Access at Fingerprint Cards AB.