Help me solve the puzzle of tracking who is in/out of an office
June 28, 2018 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I work in at a small museum and my colleagues (about 11 total) work in several different buildings and areas throughout the day. Due to issues of the alarm being set off by employees who get accidentally locked out after hours, our head of security has decided he wants to know who is physically in our out of the main building at any given time. Help me brainstorm a simple way to track this or tell me why our proposed solutions will or will not work.

There are multiple exits to our building so there is no completely centralized location to put a physical sign-in/out sheet. Most people use the back exit so this is the most logical location, but Head of Security does not want to have to walk from the lobby to the back office in case of emergency. It would also be helpful for everyone to be able to know who is in/out instead of having to physically look for them.

Some options have been floated:
1. Head of Security wants a system where every person calls or physically walks to the front desk to alert someone every single time they are stepping out of or returning to the office. This is inconvenient for almost everyone, as people go in and out many times a day.
2. Create a shared Google Doc or Sheet (or other platform you suggest?) that people can update remotely whether they are "in" or "out", and if they're "out" whether they are returning that day. This would be left open at the front desk to have real-time updates. Head of Security is skeptical of technology and I am skeptical that people will take the time to open up a document each time they leave. We could maybe set up an iPad with the Google doc available near to the most commonly used exit.
3. Is there something that people could easily update from their phones? I am picturing people leaving, forgetting to sign out because it is too laborious a process, but then they can still update their status remotely and quickly.
4. It would ideal to have to something where we mark: in, out, or gone for the day

Help us solve the puzzle!!!!
posted by dahliachewswell to Work & Money (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I honestly don't see a way for this to work without resentment from employees all around. If this absolutely necessary, I think you've got to invest in an access card reader that can swipe people in and out as they pass by the main entrance.

On edit, I missed the part about the multiple exits. I still think multiple card readers could solve the problem, but there would be a lot of training involved to develop the habit.
posted by Think_Long at 10:25 AM on June 28, 2018 [15 favorites]

Honestly, given the physical parameters that you describe, it doesn't sound like your head of security is making a reasonable request. If there are multiple doors and different buildings, you're not going to get people to go to the front desk and check in/out every time they step out for coffee.

Would it be possible to have a sign in/out process just for the beginning/end of the day? If the alarm problem is caused by people who are locked out after hours, wouldn't the key thing be to know that everyone has left at the end of the day?
posted by mccxxiii at 10:27 AM on June 28, 2018 [9 favorites]

I came to say what mccxxiii said--if the issue is with after hours access, make only people there at that time have to log it. In my office, we have a spot to note if anyone is staying after typical closing time. We have two exits but it's by the one someone is most likely to use after hours. It's a whiteboard, and if your name is on there, you erase it on the way out.
posted by tofu_crouton at 10:33 AM on June 28, 2018

Do you not currently have badge access to all of the buildings? If you do, there theoretically should be a record already of who is where at any given time. My building manager, for example, can call up the access logs and see where the last door I entered was and can deduce whether I'm on my floor or not.
posted by cooker girl at 10:59 AM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

My company recently started a "must swipe card to exit" policy because a recent fire drill was a disaster when it was clear that no one had any idea who was in or out. Most don't care. Others are vehemently against it and feel very Big-Brothered, to the degree they will walk 15 minutes out of their way every time they need to leave, in order to use the one door that's open to the public and does not require card-reading.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 11:08 AM on June 28, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's both normal and totally reasonable to ask employees to use a swipe card when entering or exiting a workplace. Just get a system with multiple swipe points so people can use any entrance/exit they want.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 11:09 AM on June 28, 2018 [11 favorites]

Does everyone have a cell phone? If so, use Google Lattitude to track where they are automatically. If there are one or two who don't, it might still be easier to come up with an alternative plan for just them.
posted by ubiquity at 11:11 AM on June 28, 2018

My team has been using Simple In/Out for the last couple years, and it does its job well enough. Your status can be updated manually or via geofencing, and it’s cross-platform.

The main issue is the cultural shift necessary to get people to buy in to the process, and that requires either group consensus or somebody saying “thou shalt”, depending on the organization.
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:42 AM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

I would not let my employer track me on my phone and I think there would be a lot of push back on that suggestion. Instead of them knowing where everyone is, can you solve the problem of the alarm going off? There should be a process to follow when someone is locked out that prevents the alarm from being triggered.
posted by soelo at 12:13 PM on June 28, 2018 [14 favorites]

Not everyone agrees that it is 'both normal and totally reasonable' to force employees to swipe in and out with a card every time they enter and exit the building, or this wouldn't be a question. Many people do not think this is okay, and buying into little elements of surveillance like this makes it more and more acceptable across the board. It is very common and it is obviously an option for OP, but personally I've never had to do it anywhere I've ever worked, and it would definitely rub me the wrong way.
posted by thegreatfleecircus at 1:01 PM on June 28, 2018 [6 favorites]

Maybe the solution here is to give permissions for after-hours access to employees who need to stay late, rather than monitoring everyone's whereabouts all day long and insisting on restrictive, inconvenient check-ins. No need for less trust and harder access, when really what we're talking about is an annoying and alarming hardware problem, not misbehavior.

"In, out, gone" has its perks. But wanting to know who is where in case of emergency is a separate ask. Careful of conflation.
posted by fritillary at 1:24 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

The switch from "come and go at will" to "everyone in the building will be monitored at all times," even if it's just, "so that we'll know who's here," is a big one.

If the main issue is that after-hours access can set off an alarm, perhaps you can address that directly, rather than adding new layers of security for everyone.

It's not bad to want to know who's in the building in case of emergency - my own job has keycards (and guards) at all exits, and a solid procedure for check-in after an emergency evacuation. But that's a lot to change all at once, and I can guarantee that any process that requires people to sign in/out, especially if it requires going out of their way, will be ignored so much it'll be useless. If you make it a requirement and hassle people about it, you'll foster resentment and sabotage attempts.

I'd suggest having an all-employees meeting, mention the problem with setting off the alarm, and brainstorm solutions. Maybe everyone's fine with a phone app that they use for tracking locations. Maybe they're fine with a sign-in sheet. Maybe 9 are fine and 2 resent it - in which case, it won't work; this needs consensus, not majority, or it needs strict enforcement that everyone will hate until it becomes automatic.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:32 PM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Even with badge sensors at every exit folks will be chatting a walk in with a single swipe. But it will solve the swipe out problem after hours, folks will remember to swipe before triggering an alarm, most of the time.

The simplest solution for the after hours is a huge sign at the alarmed exits to use the main entrance (or assigned exit) or ALARM WILL SOUND.
posted by sammyo at 1:35 PM on June 28, 2018 [5 favorites]

This was my exact situation when I worked at a similar set-up (job had multiple people doing multiple things in multiple buildings across campus, alarm had to be set at end of day). I think knowing whether you're in or out at all times is just too much. All you need is to reliably set the alarm at EOD, right? How we did this: at 5pm (or whenever "after hours" is for you, whenever the museum closes), lock all doors and exits except 1. Have a sign-out sheet there at that exit. Last person out of the building for the day calls security to let them know to lock down the building.
posted by FirstMateKate at 2:47 PM on June 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

My smallish museum uses Skype for Business and Outlook calendars. It was a bit of a cultural change when it started, and it's still not a perfect solution, but that's how we do it.
posted by PussKillian at 2:57 PM on June 28, 2018

"Due to issues of the alarm being set off by employees who get accidentally locked out after hours"

Is it possible to just fix these issues, rather than installing a surveillance panopticon in your museum? Seems like a deficient security system.

If you must, install a badge reader on all doors and force people to swipe in and out.
posted by boghead at 3:00 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

My office just uses a shared Google sheet. We have a column for in/out and a series of columns with the basic work hours (8-5) where people can block out periods of time that they are away from the office. It can be updated from mobile if you have Sheets installed on your phone. This works for us as our office email is a gmail-based system, so we all use Sheets and Google Drive regularly.
posted by assenav at 3:11 PM on June 28, 2018

Instead of trying to track people all the time, why not have a process that only revolves around when the alarm is going to be turned on?

Fifteen minutes before the alarm is going to be turned on, send a message to everyone who might be in the buildings and say "Alarm turning on in 15 minutes at HH:MM. Respond if you will be in or need access after this time."

If people are already left for the day, or aren't even working that day, they'll shrug their shoulders and ignore the message. If people need access, they'll contact the person turning on the alarm and they can figure out what needs to be done. In this way, you're putting the main burden (responding to the alarm message) on people who would be affected by the alarm, and it would sort of be their own fault for not responding to this regular expected message.

This does require people to have their phones on them at around the time the alarm would be turned on, but most of the other solutions also require some kind of technology being accessed on a similar interval.
posted by meowzilla at 5:43 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

When I worked at a museum, nobody kept their own keys. The receptionist kept them all in a drawer with numbered dividers so they could see at a glance who had come to get their keys at any given time. Some people found it a pain to have to get keys from the receptionist on entry and turn them in when leaving, but it was just part of our security system and it worked, so they got used to it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 6:56 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Should have added - you couldn't get into nonpublic areas of the museum without these keys.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:01 PM on June 28, 2018

I don't know what's best for you but the industry term for this type of problem is called "access control" and basically boils down to employee cards, card readers, and maglocks. A local structured cabling and/or security company can get you quotes on what it would cost to install such a system.

Each employee has a card and every door has a card reader and a maglock, and maybe some other equipment as well like motion sensors and push-to-exit buttons depending on the requirments. The hardware on each door is wired into a network and software runs on a computer that monitors and administrates the system. The security officer can use the software to set up access levels on a per-door-per-user granularity and see the status of doors and employees in real-time and even unlock doors remotely.
posted by glonous keming at 8:06 PM on June 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Glonous keming has the correct answer. You need a proper access control system with software controlling access via swipe cards. This will cost money, but it's the only solution not prone to human error and forgetfulness that meets the parameters.
posted by plep at 11:31 PM on June 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

At my workplace we had a culture of de-arming the alarm if there out of hours, last person in puts it on, separate alarms for each building. You would sign your name on the whiteboard in the alarm box out of hours so people would know not to put the alarm on.

Recently there has been change: only certain people are allowed the de-arming fobs. The alarm goes on at 6 when the cleaners leave, and you need to be out by then. Has improved work life balance a bit!

I suggest these as it sounds like you are looking for lots of different options.
posted by freethefeet at 3:28 AM on June 29, 2018

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