As an office manager or admin, you want visitors to your location–job candidates, customers, vendors, and partners–to feel welcome at your firm or business. Regardless of the organization or firm you manage, from financial services to healthcare to insurance, just about everyone who walks through the door needs network access, whether it’s to collaborate with your team, print an airline boarding pass, access a presentation file, or any number of other reasons. However, you must balance keeping your workplace secure—while showing hospitality to your guests.
To keep your company from losing time and money, you must keep the physical building, network, and data secure while guests are at your office. While most visitors wouldn’t knowingly cause a data breach, even visiting a compromised website or clicking a bad link while connected to your network can open the doors for an attack on your company’s network and files.
Even though your employees should ensure confidential materials stay secure, that doesn’t always happen. The 2018 Shred-it State of the Industry Report found that 42 percent of small business owners that reported a data breach attributed it, at least in part, to employees—whether through human error or accidental loss. For example, a guest walking back from the restroom could easily access the network through an unlocked workstation.
Best practices for implementing a guest policy
To keep your office secure, consider creating a policy that addresses guests and security before an issue occurs. Ponemon reported that 16 percent of respondents weren’t aware if their organization had experienced a cyberattack. By waiting until after you’ve had a theft or breach, your company loses money and time, and likely experiences significant stress when an incident occurs.
Here are eight tips for creating a welcoming and secure environment for guests:
- Give guests name badges to wear: Even though your small business may not use employee badges, identifying people as guests can help prevent issues. Employees who see guests wandering in secure areas immediately know that they should be accompanied and can approach the guest to offer them assistance getting to where they need to be—or at least away from where they shouldn’t be. Create colorful badges that are easy to spot. For personalized touch, create a badge for each guest with their name and business. Guests will feel welcome when a badge is waiting for them upon check-in.
- Have guests sign-in electronically: Instead of the outdated paper sign-in sheet, use a tablet to collect guest information and have them sign in. No more struggling to read messy handwriting or running out of sheets on the log. In addition to projecting a professional appearance to your guests, electronic check-ins also provide a time stamp for when guests enter the building and sign out. You can also use a tablet camera to add a picture to their badge, if this level of security is needed.
- Require guests to be accompanied by an employee: One of the biggest risks to your office is unaccompanied guests in secure areas. They are not going to peek into an employee’s computer or take confidential papers if the Marketing Manager is with them. If your office regularly has visitors, consider creating a separate area where they can move around unattended, such as a conference room near the kitchen and restrooms. Instead of making the interactions awkward, coach employees to make guests feel like they are being catered to rather than babysat.
- Give guests a quick tour of the office: Upon arrival, show guests the locations of everything they’ll need to find during their visit—restrooms, kitchen, break room, conference room, your office or desk. And be sure to include the coffee pot in the tour, along with a quick demo if needed. Guests that know where the important things are will be far less likely to wander into a secure area. For an extra dose of hospitality, have a special basket of snacks and drinks available for customers, vendors, and partners.
- Set up a guest Wi-Fi network: Instead of allowing visitors to access your company’s main wireless network, set up a guest network. This limits guest access and significantly reduces your security risks. Changing the password regularly allows you to control the number of people who have access to your network at any given time. Instead of posting the account and password on a sign in the office, create a business card with the login information and space for you to write the current password. If you aren’t sure how to set up guest Wi-Fi access, this article from Network World walks you through the process from start to finish.
- Provide employee training: Since many employees may not read (or remember) a written policy, hold a short in-person training session on new guest procedures. The 2018 U.S. State of Cybercrime survey found that 66 percent of companies found that security awareness training reduced attacks. To encourage people to show up for the training, offer free snacks—or even a few fun prizes for people who answer questions. Be sure to add the visitor policy training to new employee onboarding so all employees have the information needed to keep your office safe.
- Keep the visitor policy at the front of employees’ minds: If you rarely have visitors, it’s easy for employees to forget the procedure and become lax about securing their computers and desktops. To make it fun instead of a chore, start a “Secure Employee of the Month” award and give a silly trophy or prize to the person who best follows the policies. If you are expecting visitors on a certain day, send an email reminder to employees about the policy. And if you have a few extra minutes, consider creating a short and humorous video to refresh employees on what to do.
- Create a checklist for arriving visitors: Even though you know the routine, you want to make sure the policy is followed when you are out of the office for any reason. Write up a short checklist and post it near the front desk. For example:
- Greet visitor by name.
- Have visitor sign in.
- Give visitor their name badge.
- Offer visitor coffee.
- Provide guest Wi-Fi log in information.
- Show visitor around the office.
- Call visitor’s employee contact.
Creating a written visitor policy
Because your employees are the ones responsible for guests, consider creating a written policy for employees to sign during the training. Afterwards, include the policy in the new employee onboarding process. Instead of creating pages of rules and regulations, make a short and simple policy that is easy to follow. Here’s a sample guest visitor policy:
- All visitors must check in electronically at the front desk. Remind them to check out when they leave.
- Give your visitors a name badge to wear during the visit.
- Guests must always be accompanied while in the office.
- Do not give guests the company wireless password or other passwords. Guests must use the guest Wi-Fi network.
- Make sure that all confidential documents are in a drawer or file cabinet when guests are at your desk.
- Be sure to log out of your computer when you leave the building.
It’s easy to assume that guest policies are only for larger companies with many employees and a steady stream of visitors. However, even a single guest once a year can compromise the security of your company’s data and your employees. By taking the time to proactively create a process that considers the needs of both your guests and the company, guests will leave with a positive, professional impression of your office—and your company’s networks and confidential information will remain secure.
For more information, read about major security risks your office could face in the future.