The FM Professional

The badge system: beyond access control

Nick Mason
March 24th, 2022

An employee badge system is usually front-and-center in any plan for a safe and secure office. 

Beyond providing an extra layer of security, a good badge system can also support health measures. It can also be provide better insight into space utilization

As more people return to the office, access control and occupancy is top of mind for both employees and employers. Badge systems are an integral part of the plan.  

In this article, we explore using badge systems for the office. We focus on employee badging systems and how they can create a safer and healthier workspace. 

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What is a badge system?

A badge system is the strategy that organizations use to control all areas of their office or workspace. It is specifically concerned with who can access what. 

This process can be as simple as letting people into their building or onto their floor each morning. 

Or it can be as complex as restricting access to certain locations for security reasons—say, to protect sensitive information. 

Before the pandemic, offices might have focused solely on how badges support their security systems. And certainly from a top-level view, security remains a major function for any badge system. 

However, while security concerns are still important, companies are now looking at how badge systems can also help them keep their employees healthy. 

Namely, beyond controlling access, badge systems can play a role in maintaining social distancing. This is important. Even after any specific mandates lift, we can still expect many people to have trepidation around feeling overcrowded. 

“We are all going to bring a certain level of anxiety with us for a little while around personal space,” predicts workplace strategist Angie Earlywine, Senior Director in the Total Workplace division of Global Occupier Services at Cushman & Wakefield. “So densifying a conference room or cramming people into a training room is probably not going to be the social norm for a while. Remember we all spent two years social distancing, that doesn’t change overnight.”

Finally, forward-thinking companies have always used badge systems to help them gain insight into the office and improve space management.  

Specifically, when companies use their ID badge system to collect occupancy and similar data about how people are actually using the office, they can use this information to make well-informed decisions about how best to use their space. This can be especially helpful when planning hybrid or alternate work environment types.

How does a badge work?

Whether employees proudly display them with lanyards or keep them hidden discreetly in their wallets, most modern badge systems that use smart cards work roughly the same.

Employees (and sometimes visitors) usually have access to an ID badge. This is usually made on ID card printers with PVC plastic, like Magicard, Evolis, Zenius, IDP, Fargo, and Zebra. They can use these cards to gain access to whatever physical spaces they need. This is assuming the company will allow them to be there. Card design typically includes a person’s name and other relevant information, and, hopefully, be on brand and attractive as well. Many companies will also opt for photo ID badges, to up their security. 

When these cards have barcodes or other encoding metrics, they essentially become access control cards. They keep people out of or let them into buildings, parking lots, floors, offices, conference rooms, cafeterias, private rooms, or whatever other space they need.

Access control is via the swipe of a magnetic stripe. Or, when using proximity cards, simply by being near the card reader. 

In some cases, companies may prefer employees to always physically display their ID. This way, people can see at a glance who is an employee and who isn’t. Or who should be in certain areas and who shouldn’t. Badge reels can help with this; they easily attach a badge to your clothing. 

And in some cases where security is paramount, companies can also include biometrics in their badge system. 

Regardless of their badging choice or level of security, companies can best optimize their system when tracking badges using badging software. Especially when it integrates with security badge solutions like those provided by Brivo, Kastle, Kisi, and OpenPath. 

It’s the combination of badges with modern ID card software that really powers the modern office. 

Visitor management systems

In this article, we’re focusing on the uses and benefits of employee ID badges. 

That said, some companies may also need to regularly use visitor badges, or provide occasional event badges. 

Assuming you are using a good ID card system for your employees, it should be able to work for visitors. In fact, if you’re using a good printer system, you should even be able to make photo IDs the day-of.

badge access

Benefits of using badge access control

Badge access control has always been a critical element of most security solutions. Especially in areas like health care, government, and banking and financial institutions, controlling entry and access in the physical space to certain badge holders has always been important. 

Specifically, a good badge system can help with security in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Ensuring only specified employees have access to sensitive information
  • Protecting certain departments—especially for those like human resources dealing with sensitive information—from having too much (or any) walk-through traffic
  • Preventing visitors from wandering into areas they shouldn’t be, which can be especially helpful when tied into other wayfinding efforts 
  • Preventing disruptions, especially helpful when employees are working in heads-down focus areas
  • Ensuring executives or certain staff have access to everything they need—for example, to foster more collaboration in the workplace, HR, IT, and facility management (FM) teams may need a higher level of access than other employees
  • Improving automation

In short, a badge system can let companies create custom access areas in their office space. This depends on who needs access or to whom the company provides access. 

And most importantly, it can protect your employees, visitors, and space from intruders, both those with bad intentions, or those who are simply just lost or wandering around. 

This is why Safeguard, an OfficeSpace integration that helps keep employees safe, now integrates with your badge system and with building automation systems, offering the ability to immediately lock everyone out of the building in the case of any security threat. 

And of course, it’s just as easy to give them access the next day, assuming you’ve got the all-clear. 

Like we’ll cover below, this is just one of the ways we’ve recently improved Safeguard with employee safety and wellness in mind. 

Using badges to improve health and safety

Moving beyond strict security and privacy concerns, badge systems today are also being used to provide safer spaces for employees from a health perspective. 

Namely, badges can help ensure only a safe amount of people are using a given space at a given time. 

We developed Distancing Planner, which is easy to integrate into your badge system, to simplify social distancing. Not only does it let you easily generate safe seating plans, you can harmonize them with your badging system to ensure spaces can’t get too crowded. 

We also developed the aforementioned Safeguard to improve health and safety in the office space, creating a way for companies to easily provide and track regular wellness checks. 

Safeguard now also integrates further with badges to keep the office safe and healthy.

Specifically, you can automatically activate or deactivate an employee badge based on their Safeguard form results. 

And if an employee fails their wellness check, their desk booking will automatically be freed up for someone else to use, always ensuring the most efficient office possible. 

Using badges to improve the office

Finally, using badges can help streamline space utilization and collect accurate data about occupancy rates. This is especially true when they are integrated with IoT sensors to create an accurate picture of office use.  

When badges integrate with an organization’s existing Integrated Workplace Management System, companies can use badge information to see how people are interacting with the office. This type of intricate workplace analytics helps FMs and companies plan departments more accurately, ensuring the right people are attached to the right equipment or area without disruption.  

For example, badge information can show companies how many conference rooms are actually being used, and by whom, which they can use to adjust their layouts going forward.

They can also use this information for better headcount planning, or to reduce the size of their real estate portfolio, thereby often dramatically cutting costs along with their carbon footprint.  

And when FMs have this type of actionable information at their fingertips, they can better implement more creative workplaces, such as those using agile working, activity-based working, or other flexible working arrangements. 

In this light, badge systems are an integral but often overlooked factor in fostering more innovation in the workplace


Who needs a badge system? 

Thanks to the pandemic, virtually every office with any shared space can benefit from a badge system. Not only can they create safe spaces, both from a health and security perspective. They can also collect data that can help them create more purposeful workplaces. 

IDs are so much more than lamination and holographic overlays. Ultimately, by helping employees feel safe and by helping develop a workplace strategy that better serves them, badges can actually create more connectivity in the office. 

Perhaps counterintuitively, controlling access in some areas of the office actually liberates all areas of the office.

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OfficeSpace makes it easy to create a badge system that collects good data and improves the office. Reach out for a free demo. 

Photos: Alextov, Andrii Zastrozhnov