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13 Feb

2017

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Opinion

The security challenges of the UK’s coworking revolution

Posted by on 13 Feb 2017

The coworking revolution has transformed business in the UK. However, this new way of working brings with it new security risks. As coworking spaces come with more unfamiliar people, the risk of property theft is naturally a concern for many people considering going in.

Fortunately, there are a number of innovative security measures coworking spaces are taking, from state-of-the-art access control systems, to neighbourhood-watch style communities.

The security concerns of coworking

Security is one of the main concerns businesses have when deciding whether or not to move into a coworking space. Privacy is also cited as a major issue; the majority of coworking spaces are open plan, and what members gain in comfort, flexibility, and savings they lose in privacy.

Providers of security to West Sussex since 1983, Security 201 offer commercial security systems that can restrict access with convenient methods ranging from fingerprint scanners to smart-cards. This level of high-security may sound at odds with the relaxed atmosphere associated with coworking spaces, but Coworking Resources have said that coworking spaces with more than 30 members are better off with an electronic access system.

It’s not just individuals who worry about privacy; businesses who use coworking spaces may be concerned about intellectual property theft. Collaboration and networking are frequently cited as two of the biggest draws of coworking, but for businesses that end up sharing a space with competitors, this might be far from the case.

This brings us to another important point: cyber security. For companies dealing with high volumes of confidential data, working in close proximity to other businesses may be potentially risky.

It’s also worth noting that in a traditional office it is likely you will recognise most people there, and you will probably know workers in your department personally. In a coworking space where members come and go when they like, you will regularly see people you do not know.

How are London coworking spaces are tackling security issues?

The rise of all kinds of businesses using coworking spaces in the capital mean that security is of a paramount importance. As such, there a number of ways that the spaces themselves are rising to the security challenge. For example, in order to tackle cyber security, Hedge fund, Winton Capital worked with K2 Space, who design London coworking spaces, on the Cyber London programme. The program invests in companies with the potential to create breakthroughs in cyber security.

To tackle privacy issues, i2 office, who provide London coworking spaces, offer private meeting rooms available to rent for as little half a day and include 24/7 office access with individually programmed smart cards.“ Similarly, Central Working, who run a space in Shoreditch, provide  private phone and skype booths for security-conscious members to retreat to.

Of course the buildings themselves work to create a secure environment, this is not the equivalent of working in a coffee shop when you have to fear going to the toilet and leave your laptop unattended. Many include CCTV systems, however it can difficult to strike a balance between creating a secure working environment, and an invasive one.

What members can do to keep their things safe?

As coworking becomes increasingly popular—there are, as of January 2017, over 1 million co workers worldwide—security issues will arise. Although workspace providers and security companies can install the latest technology to tackle crime, the most effective solution might be with staff members themselves.

At least that’s the position of Indy Hall, a coworking space and community in Philadelphia. They found that their members main concern tended to be: “Is it safe to leave my stuff here?“ Their answer lies with the trust the members have in each other. Most coworking spaces advise members to lock down each desktop, add cameras to monitors, and always keep expensive property on your person. Although these can all be important, it will do nothing to breed an environment of trust.

In fact, Indy Hall suggests the opposite, they believe that things like CCTV breed an environment of suspicion that flies in the face of what coworking is suppose to be about. Instead they introduced a neighbourhood watch coworking community, where members have to look at each other and new members have a 30 day waiting period before they could get 24/7 access. This way a relationship of trust has to built up first.

Although Indy Hall’s crime prevention community is admirable, crime-prevention tools such as access control systems and CCTV will only help make a space more secure. However, they may be right about the importance community can have in tackling crime. It has long been said that coworking encourages collaboration with work, perhaps members should start to collaborate with security too?

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