Dealing with the risks of working in shared work spaces.

Posted by John Kennedy on Sep 14, 2018 10:39:19 AM
John Kennedy

Coworking spaces are an ideal environment to help productivity and allow you to manage your life work balance more effectively. It's the kind of shared work space that fuels collaboration rather than competition. Feeding off the energy and expertise of your co-workers.

40 percent of the workforce by 2020 will be independent workers, consultants and freelancers so shared work spaces will continue to grow in demand.

A shared work space offers everything you'd expect from a regular office but you have the flexibility to rent the work space hourly, daily, weekly or on a monthly basis on the premise that you share all the facilities with your fellow coworkers.

As the demand for work space grows so do the options, for lower budgets you can grab a space from a first come, first served basis or if you have needs for a more permanent spot you can sign up for a defined office space that only you can use.

Finding and retaining talent will be the number one competitive advantage going forward, the battle to find and keep key employees could make the difference to how fast you can grow as a business  - so you need an attractive work place to retain your staff.

Plug and play with shared work spaces

A shared work space provides access to an office that is ready to go – it’s a real plug and play solution. Plug in your lap top, get the WIFI password, find the coffee machine and you're away!

If you take the decision to base your business in a shared workspace it does mean that you need to think about your technology infrastructure. It is a great moment to really consider what your IT support needs are and how to fund your hardware purchases. 

The financial realities of running a small business can make hiring an in-house IT resource too expensive, especially if you are a freelancer or an early stage start-up. So, outsourcing your IT support and leasing your hardware should be a natural choice, especially in the coworking space if you are going to make your money go further.

When considering your options there are a few other basic needs, the minimum requirements that also need to be a part of your decision making process:

  • A feeling that there is a community spirit 
  • Decent desks, ergonomic chairs, and good lighting
  • A reliable source of power and accessible plug sockets
  • Sufficient number of bathrooms and somewhere to place your coat
  • Clean kitchen and social area
  • Freely available, reliable and large enough WIFI capacity 

The most important requirement of a work space is that you have a feeling of being safe and secure, allowing you to focus on your work.

However, with all the benefits that shared offices can bring, there are also risks of sharing office space with people and visitors you don’t know personally. Not only that, shared Internet connections combined with not applying proper security measures can easily lead to you compromising the safety of your business and data.

Therefore, here are a few tips on how to keep safe in a shared work space.

The dangers of shared worked spaces

Security threats are all around us, and complacency in the work place is the weak spot that hackers and thieves are looking to take advantage of.

Sensitive materials, such as passwords or client information, may be susceptible to prying eyes or ears in a coworking space. You won't know everybody, coworkers or visitors, so it pays to be vigilant.

Leaving a laptop or papers out while making a coffee or stepping away from your personal workspace for a short time could allow someone to steal information, look over your documents or install malware.

Implement a robust password and company device requirement for you and your team, such as automatically logging off a laptop after a short amount of inactivity and encourage the use of monitor privacy screens.

If you work in a space that has shared printers make sure you don't leave your print outs lying around, deliberately or by accident they may be picked up by others. Printers may also be vulnerable to hacks that allow others to intercept or reprint documents.

Limit the use of USB drives to be connected to your computer as they can provide a point of entry for a hacker.

You also need to take care with your office Wi-Fi network, if it is unprotected what precautions are you taking - the most common form of hacking is stealing your login credentials and taking over your identity.

It can be pretty easy to switch off and have a false sense of security in a space that feels like your office, but in reality is filled with people who you probably know nothing about or why they are there. 

So how should you protect your business?

Protecting your data depends on the level of cybersecurity measures you have already implemented.

Shared offices usually have public networks and Wi-Fi access. That means that the network can easily be compromised. Having proper cybersecurity software in place can help protect you against data breaches and secure your data from malicious attacks.

For example, make sure you have the latest updates and versions of your VPN, antivirus and anti-malware software. That way, you can prevent hack attempts and malicious software from infecting your network and files. It still means that you have to be cautious but at least you have a certain level of protection that can resist attacks.  

Password protection

Passwords have been the traditional way to login to your business applications and systems.

Protecting your devices with strong passwords, frequently updated and never shared, is crucial for protecting your data in shared offices.

Many of your coworkers will use a weak password because it’s more convenient to remember and does not get in the way of them being productive. This is a mistake, strong passwords are needed if you are going to have any chance of resisting an attack from a hacker. Passwords need to be anywhere between 12 to 20 characters long and a combination of upper and lower-case letters, symbols and numbers.

Make sure you also disable automatic connection to the public Wi-Fi network in your shared office and disable file sharing options if you do ever need to connect to that network. 

Always use a virtual private network, or VPN, to access company systems even when browsing the web, VPNs can help protect you while connected to Wi-Fi or other untrusted networks.

Protect your physical assets

Your data can become infected by an attacker inserting malicious software directly into your computers via a USB flash drive, so it’s important to always keep an eye on your devices while in a shared office. 

If you leave the office for any amount of time, don't leave devices switched on. And if you are finished for the day if all you really have as hardware is your laptop, then consider taking it home rather than leaving it vulnerable and unprotected.

Of course you should ask what security measures are already adopted by the office, from whether they have CCTV cameras to identity card locks on the doors.

Backup your data

Data backups protect your data from being stolen, but they are also a safe option in case of a natural disaster or a hardware malfunction that you cannot do much about. Plus it makes good business sense to have a record or archive of your data to refer to at a later date if needed.

When it comes to backup, there are several options you can choose. For instance, you can back up your data on an external hard drive, on another computer or upload and secure your data in the cloud.

The cloud is today probably the most effective option, as you can always access your data no matter where you are or the device you are using. What’s more, your data is protected in the cloud, by a suppliers who's complete focus is to deter attacks and offer you the highest level of protection possible.

Using a shared office is beneficial and an affordable option. You get to enjoy a fully functional work environment for less money.

However, sharing an office with others has certain risks, so you need to take seriously how you protect your data and your devices. 

Worktools can help you with a security plan, and a cost effective way top source your computer hardware through leasing.

You'll find that at Worktools we are good listeners, experts in technology and happy to talk a deal that meets your needs.

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Topics: small business, coworking, cybersecurity

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