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Remember when having your own office was a sign of business success? Sometimes it still is, but nowadays you’re just as likely to find a CEO sitting in the middle of an open-concept environment surrounded by employees, as you would be seeing her hold court in a corner office. Indeed, it’s no surprise that in our sharing economy, sharing space in co-working environments is all the rage.

Specifically, the rise in popularity in recent years of so-called co-working offices has changed the way we think about and use commercial office space. Companies such as WeWork have generated multi-billion-dollar valuations creating mainly open-concept spaces for smaller companies to set up shop.

The benefit is that co-working offices allow companies to occupy smaller footprints—sometimes as little as a single desk—then expand as needed, and often without a long-term lease creating unnecessary overhead. At a time when more workers are telecommuting (working from home or a satellite office) and organizations are seeking efficiencies to bolster their bottom-lines, co-working spaces have become the go-to option for many small and medium-sized businesses.

Many commercial property owners have come to embrace the co-working trend, but there’s one consideration that some of them overlook (but definitely shouldn’t): security.

Security risks abound in co-working spaces

Put simply, the idea of open offices full of workers from a plethora of different companies who come and go as they please sends up proverbial red flags for any security professional—us included. When an office property is occupied by a single tenant, it’s far easier to limit access, track individuals’ movements and install the necessary security equipment to keep the building and its occupants safe.

It’s definitely possible to set up security monitoring and other necessary equipment in and around co-working spaces, but ensuring that security protocols are followed can be a major challenge. Access control is one of the most daunting ongoing problems that owners and managers of these properties encounter. Not because the various tenants necessarily pose a security risk, but because each one could be welcoming visitors into the building each day for meetings; or they could be receiving courier packages, which necessitates opening doors to strangers; or they might even be careless at times, and leave keys (or key fobs) lying around—sometimes even allowing individuals to follow them into the building—thereby creating opportunities for thieves or vandals to gain access and take what they please.

Theft is another major risk. With that many individuals roaming through a building on any given day, property tends to go missing. This can happen in the offices of large corporations that occupy multiple floors of an office building, let alone open-concept spaces with multiple tenants, each essentially responsible for their own security.

How to protect a co-working space

As an integrated solution provider, we’re all about promoting the use of the latest and greatest technology to secure commercial properties. Co-working spaces are no different.

Landlords should invest in important security infrastructure starting with digital lock systems that use key fobs or cards assigned to individuals, along with software that tracks and stores important data such as building entry and exit times. Many property owners are now tapping mobile phone-based fob systems. Any of these tools can work, so long as their use is mandatory, and the systems are installed on absolutely every entry point into the building.

Another important consideration are digital cameras and adequate lighting. The former helps to not only document who is entering and exiting the building, but also what they’re doing within its confines. Remember, with multiple professionals or companies sharing a space, there is no mutual code of conduct or HR policy for them to follow. They essentially dictate their own behaviour while in the office, and while it’s almost always perfectly acceptable, we’ve seen incidents where individuals don’t act according to accepted norms, in rare cases even pilfering property as they please.

As outlined in a past Wincon blog, adequate lighting inside and outside any commercial space is another important way to ensure safety and mitigate risk. It’s vitally important around a property with potentially dozens of tenants entering and exiting at all hours—especially if your property is accessible 24 hours a day, which is the case with many co-working facilities.

One more proactive tool for helping to protect a co-working space is to build safeguards into lease agreements. Setting out a code of conduct and the landlord’s right to evict anyone who breaches conduct standards or security protocols won’t completely mitigate risk, but it will certainly help. So, too, will educating tenants by sending out reminders that security is a shared responsibility. Locking doors at the end of the night, locking away valuables in provided storage lockers or closets (assuming you have them, and you probably should) or taking them home at the end of the day, and being sure to protect key fobs or entry pad passwords—are all simple measures that can dramatically reduce security risks.

Last point: one of the most effective tools at your disposal is to hire a reputable security firm to patrol or at the very least provide monitoring services for your property. As outlined in previous blogs, the word ‘reputable’ is key here. There simply is no substitute for a well-trained guard patrolling a space and staying on the lookout for potential problems.

Winston Stewart, President and CEO

Wincon Security