For decades, if not longer, a “visitor” from a facility management perspective has been a non-employee coming through your front doors, and historically those people have needed to be registered in some way before they enter, but that is changing.
It might sound weird, but with hybrid and remote work becoming as widespread as it has, the very definition of “a visit” has changed to a point where everyone can be a visitor, and that presents a number of challenges.
But before I dive into that, I want to cover why I’m suddenly writing about visitors and visitor management, especially after having spent the past few years being as focused on hybrid work as I have.
A bit over a year has passed since the company I founded evolved to become a part of the Sign In Solutions family. And a lot has changed over the course of that year.
But the biggest change is probably our shift in focus from meeting room management and hybrid work to visitor management.
Sure, our name has changed from “Pronestor” to “Sign In Workspace” which has faced us with a rather unique set of challenges.
Among those realizing that twenty years of branding can’t be undone in a day or even in a year — as we are still getting calls for “Pronestor”.
But the name change hasn’t been without its benefits either. Because unlike “Pronestor” most people seem to understand “Sign In Workspace” the first time we say it.
But becoming a part of an organization focused on visitor management has forced us (and me) to figure out how we as a workplace management company fit into the visitor narrative.
The connections that we’ve made between our system and the systems from Sign In Enterprise and Sign In Compliance make perfect sense, but the question that kept nagging me was, how do you pivot from talking about the future of work and making the workplace better for employees to talking about visitor management?
The answer turned out to be pretty simple.
Instead you come to the realization that you can’t divide people into visitors, employees and partners as easily as you could before. In the modern workplace everyone is a visitor in one way or another.
I don’t think I’ll raise many eyebrows by saying that the term ‘visitor’ covers both contractors, consultants, external meeting participants and clients. While they may need to be registered in different ways when they enter your buildings, none of them are employees.
They’re only visiting.
Maybe most people will even nod in agreement when I say that service providers who come to the office every day, like catering staff and cleaning, are also visitors to some extent.
But when I say an employee is just as much a visitor in the office as a consultant or a potential client is, I think a few of you would say that we’re entering a gray area.
I can’t take credit for coming up with this concept myself as it is an idea that has evolved with the coming together of Sign In Solutions. And I have to admit that it took a lot of getting used to for me to accept this idea as gospel.
But during a conversation on the subject someone said “of course you’re just visiting your office, it’s not like you live there” and for me, that way of looking at it, made it click.
Just like our colleagues aren’t our family (in most cases at least) our workplace is not our home.
And when you first start looking at visitors in this way, you begin to understand that there’s a whole range of challenges which have been accepted when it comes to visitor management that have been ignored when it comes to employees.
Registration, guest experience and visitor logs are all things that have been a part of visitor management considerations for decades, but apart from the time cards of factories past that were used to clock in and out, and the new mandate to make time-tracking mandatory for European employers, these challenges haven’t really been a part of employee management.
This changes, however, when we start to think of employees as guests who visit the office as opposed to thinking of them as being ‘native’ to the office.
When we talk about visitor registration the benefits usually focus heavily on the organization that’s being visited. But there are very few overtly visitor-facing benefits.
This is a little different when we think of the ‘employee visitor’ and not the external visitor.
While workforce tracking and the ability to enforce office-time policies is something that is discussed often, when we talk about employees registering their time in the office, one of the real benefits comes from the transparency most systems give the employees.
Allowing them to find out where their colleagues are planning to work from.
Historically, organizations have had to keep a log over their visitors to live up to a number of safety regulations, and to be able to provide the necessary information to authorities in case of an emergency.
The need to keep as detailed a log of employees hasn’t been there, mainly because a less flexible workplace assumes that every employee who didn’t call in sick or are taking the day off, would be spending the entire workday in the office, with very few exceptions.
Again, this has changed with the flexibility that newer, more flexible workplaces provide. Not treating employees as visitors and just assuming that everyone is on site will create more challenges when it comes to flexible work policies.
Visitor management companies have been talking about improving the registration experience for years. It needs to be simple, unintrusive and customized to the individual visitor.
There’s a million different reasons why someone would visit your office. A partner, an investor, a potential client, a future employee, a service provider, an external meeting participant and the list goes on.
This makes a lot of sense.
But we don’t usually extend this line of thought to employees.
Even though the truth is, that after the emergence of hybrid work and flexible workplaces, the exact same is true for employees coming to the office.
They all have different reasons for coming.
They might need; focus time away from their small apartment and loud children, to have meetings with specific colleagues, or maybe the office is just conveniently close to where they are going to meet with friends after work.
And while these reasons won’t necessarily change how they should sign in when they arrive at the office, it does change what they need when coming to the office.
Looking at how the change from understanding employees as something other than visitors, to understanding that they are in fact visiting the office changes a lot of things.
But it could all be a phase, couldn’t it?
We could all go back to working full time from the office, and then this understanding would change back, right?
If you ask me, I would have to say no. Mainly because when it comes to flexible and hybrid work I think Pandora’s box has already been opened. For better or for worse.
But the real reason why I don’t think I’ll ever not think of employees as visitors, is because even if everyone works from the office every day, I still think applying a visitor thought process both in terms of security and experience will be a benefit to companies.
Employees will still need different things when they come to the office, and as employers it is our responsibility to provide our workforce with the things they need.
I, for one, expect to see workplace experience systems evolve to support employees in their overall decision making when it comes to working in an office or from home in a much greater way than they do now.