Returning to pre-pandemic offices won’t be business as usual for many of us. The pandemic has changed the way we look at the world we live and work in. Many workers aren’t eager to return to offices where they might still be exposed to the COVID-19 infection. Even at an 85% to 90% effectiveness rate for the vaccines, there is still the possibility of getting the virus and taking it home to loved ones. On top of that, a sizable portion of the country remains reluctant to get inoculated.

In a recent survey sponsored by Cisco Webex, 95% of workers indicated they fear contracting the disease at work. The top concern was contact with shared devices like keyboards, keypads, phones and touchscreens. About 64% expressed worries about touching these surfaces – more than feared than standing in a crowded elevator.

Businesses and organizations will have to work to ease these fears. Most are also realizing they must provide employees with a safe environment. “Safe” meaning not only secure from accidents, crime and violence but also protecting employees’ health.

Move to biometrics

Before the pandemic, many organizations were looking to biometrics for employee authorization and identification. Biometrics are unique to individuals and safer than passwords that can be easily forgotten, guessed, or hacked. And unlike ID cards or plastic badges, biometrics can’t be lost or borrowed.  Fear of increasingly sophisticated hackers pushed businesses to turn to biometrics and multifactor identification.

Contactless biometrics

On top of increased security, some biometric modalities are more hygienic as they don’t require touching any surfaces. Finger and palm print technologies often require contact with shared devices, but iris and facial recognition do not. Employees simply need to stand in front of a camera for a second or two.

Iris recognition

Iris recognition is viewed as one of the most accurate biometrics available. It uses the unique patterns in the color portion of the eye (in between the white and pupil) to identify or authenticate people. The iris remains stable throughout a person’s lifetime, unlike facial and voice recognition, and it works with masks, glasses, beards and gloves.

Where iris recognition works

Employees can use touchless iris recognition throughout the workplace from access to a facility to clock in and out of work. Here are some of its uses:

  • Access control – it can be used to enter a facility or highly restricted areas like a server room or clean lab
  • Time and attendance – iris recognition allows employees to check in and out of work accurately and securely. And because it’s a biometric, it eliminates buddy punching (one employee checking in or out for another)
  • Elevator access – it can be used on elevator banks so employees and visitors don’t have to touch buttons or controls while also restricting access to certain floors.

There are many other ways iris recognition technology can increase security with an eye toward health and safety. Computer log on and controlled or valuable equipment access are a couple of additional examples. The pandemic has us rethinking simple everyday task likes punching in a password on a multiuser keypad. Employers must help workers feel confident and safe about returning to the office. Adopting touchless technology is part of the process.