Skip Navigation

Your Return to Work Physical Security Checklist

By Northland Controls, Mar 01, 2022

Returning to the office? Check off these things for a smooth return, including 50 questions to answer before your return!

Like many things, some security systems have gone underutilized for the better part of two years thanks to COVID-19 popularizing work from home solutions. So, for companies that have their eyes set on welcoming employees back into the office this year, things may be a little rusty. Check in on these critical components to make sure your security ecosystem is up for the challenge.

Access control is one of the first lines of defense against potential threats. However, it should also provide a seamless entry experience for employees and visitors alike. If it’s been a while since your employees have been in the office, things like access levels and device integrity could be compromised. There are three main features of your access control hardware that should be tested before returning: devices, alarms, and panels.

Functioning devices is of the utmost importance when returning to the office as readers could have gone offline over the past two years. For buildings featuring hundreds of readers, noticing one that has gone offline could easily be overlooked. By testing these devices, you can be better prepared for a full return to the office.

Once your readers are properly tested, ensuring that the accompanying alarms are properly programmed means you can let the right people in and keep the wrong people out. Conducting a system audit can expose shunted or mis-programmed alarms by testing for access granted, access granted no entry, access denied, and door forced open alarms.

During the past two years, the number of cybersecurity threats and data breaches have increased dramatically. Your access control panels should be updated with recent firmware and rotating passwords to support a strong cyber and physical security posture. When testing panels, also check to see if backup power batteries are up to date for when a potential failover is needed.

Your eyes in the sky, cameras and accompanying systems have a key role in any physical security program. As you return to the office, checking to make sure these cameras are functioning, online, and recording before an event happens is key. Testing the functionality of your camera, such as the positioning and focus of the video, is a great place to start as many of these seemingly obvious issues can go undetected when not frequently used.

If video is triggered by motion, inactivity within your building could mean your NVRs have been underutilized over the past two years. As activity ramps back up, be sure there is enough video storage to comply with your company’s data retention policies. Also, much like your access control panels, upgrading your cameras’ firmware to the latest version and updating passwords on a consistent basis can help prevent future cybersecurity threats.

After mitigating issues related to your security hardware, focus your attention on the systems that power them. In some cases, your security technology may have outpaced the pandemic. Checking to see what version your access control and video management systems are currently running on will help inform your return strategy. If you’re more than two versions behind, it may be time for an upgrade. This same approach can be said for your support programs. For a fully supported system, teams need both a supported system version as well as a valid support plan. Check on expiration dates and service support plans to make sure you’re returning under the right conditions.

Many offices have undergone changes to accommodate a hybrid workforce. To accommodate any changes to security hardware, updating your device maps and naming conventions will help empower and inform operators and security teams getting re-acclimated to your buildings. By having updated device maps, operators can better respond to active and potential threats. These maps are further supported by accurate naming conventions. Do the names of your devices match their location and description? If your team hasn’t been in the system for a while, “door 12” might not be as obvious as “café entrance.”

Now that your hardware is working properly, it’s important to revisit and revise your physical security plans including your standard operating procedures. A lot has changed for companies since the start of the pandemic and making sure your SOPs reflect those changes is important to prepare for future threats and critical events. This can include key personnel changes, new threats because of COVID-19, and any corporate policy updates. By reviewing these key documents, teams can make sure questions like who is monitoring alarms and have there been any major changes over the past two years are answered before that critical information is needed to respond to an active threat.

While the world may be transitioning from pandemic to endemic status, companies still need to take precautionary measures as it relates to COVID-19. For security professionals tasked with the company’s return to office strategy, many of these initiatives can be directly supported by your physical security systems.

It’s important to understand what type of information you will need from employees before returning to the office. Whether through a remote application or an on-site kiosk, companies can leverage their access control system to provide validated access based on the results. For example, if your company requires vaccine status or health attestations on a weekly, or even daily basis, security systems can directly help manage and provision access as a result.

Another challenge those tasked with bringing employees back into the office are facing is the possibility of a COVID-19 outbreak among on-site employees. When that time comes, having the ability to create contact tracing reports can help minimize the spread. Companies utilizing their access control or video management systems to help with contact tracing can create reports based on certain characteristics (i.e. occupancy, space utilization, etc.) to alert and inform affect individuals.

Are you returning to the office in 2022? Download the 50 Questions to Answer Before Returning to the Office below to make sure you’re prepared. Need help tackling any of these return to office initiatives? Contact our team of security experts by emailing