June 20, 2022

Protecting Data in Coworking Spaces

After the COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to adopt full-time remote work models, many experts and business leaders are reimagining how, when, and where employees can work. While some professionals are returning to their office buildings, others are choosing to work from their homes, backyards, coffee shops, and other nontraditional settings.

As more businesses respond to employee preferences and adopt hybrid work options, which allow employees to “work from anywhere,” some are exploring new work environment offerings, such as coworking spaces.

Coworking, or communal working, allows professionals from different companies and industries to share the same office space. In exchange for a rental fee, coworking offices provide employees with a workspace, Wi-Fi, printing services, and shared kitchens, bathrooms, and lounges, as well as some special amenities including snacks, games, and even yoga classes.

Many employees and businesses have found communal working spaces highly beneficial. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has praised communal working spaces for providing networking opportunities, increasing productivity and creativity, and supporting local economies.

Coworking spaces became popularized by freelancers, but that has changed. Now, as remote working has become more commonplace, employees of all backgrounds are seeking out coworking spaces. With businesses considering downsizing or closing offices, coworking could grow even more popular. The number of coworking spaces worldwide is expected to more than double by 2024, surpassing 40,000. While coworking spaces make up just under 5% of the commercial real estate market now, experts expect they will make up 30% of the market by 2030.

Coworking spaces might be the future of work, but they may also pose serious risks to those who manage confidential data, as shared workspaces and internet networks can invite potential data breaches. Employees working in a communal working environment should consider these five tips to help protect their data.

  1. Follow a clean desk policy: A clean desk policy is an information security practice that requires workers to ensure that confidential information not be left in public view whenever they leave their workspaces. While clean desk policies are common in traditional business offices, they are especially relevant for coworking spaces as members can work next to unfamiliar people. In addition, before leaving a workspace to grab a snack or connect with a colleague, workers should ensure their computer is locked and password protected. Papers containing sensitive information should be stored away and not left unattended.  

  2. View sensitive data in a private area: Employees in coworking spaces might work in close proximity to others, making it easier for bad actors to view sensitive information without being noticed. Employees should find a private or less populated area to review documents and digital files containing private data whenever possible. If no private area is available, workers should consider using a laptop privacy filter, which blocks computer screens from onlookers.

  3. Use a VPN: Free Wi-Fi is one of the many amenities of communal working spaces, but it also invites a greater risk of hackers accessing sensitive data. Even Wi-Fi that requires a password to access does not mean it is a secure connection. To help protect confidential data on communal internet networks, employees should use a virtual private network (VPN), which hides a user’s IP address, so their internet activity is not as easily traceable. Most VPNs are relatively affordable and a smart investment for anyone who needs effective data protection in coworking spaces.

  4. Retrieve printed papers immediately: Communal working spaces often offer a shared printer for members. This is a helpful amenity for many, but too often workers will send a document to a printer and forget to retrieve it, potentially leaving confidential documents exposed to others in the building. Instead, employees should retrieve their printed documents as soon as they are available to help keep confidential information private. Likewise, if making copies, employees should ensure that they have all copies and the original document in their possession before leaving the printing area.

  5. Avoid discarding private data in the garbage or recycling bins: Bad actors can easily steal documents containing private data from garbage cans or recycling bins in coworking spaces. Instead, employees should opt to destroy any documents containing personal, financial, or health information through a professional secure document shredding service.

Shred-it Solutions Support Workers in Any Location

Shred-it’s secure information destruction services are designed to meet a wide range of needs for businesses and employees in all industries and locations. Shred-it offers one-time or regularly scheduled paper destruction options for small to large companies. Employees working from home or from coworking spaces can also access professional-grade document destruction services with Shred-it’s residential and drop-off shredding options.