- A recent webinar hosted by essensys addressed key questions that flexible workspace operators should be asking about technology and security.
- During the webinar, the expert panel shared some of the key tech security requirements that coworking spaces and flexible offices should be implementing.
- With corporate clients embracing coworking, coworking space operators are being asked questions about technology and networks that they haven’t been asked before.
What are the big questions around security that flexible space owners need to be asking?
Can higher security levels help operators differentiate from their competition?
How can the member experience be improved with tech security?
These are just some of the topics addressed during a recent webinar hosted by essensys, which included an expert panel featuring Liz Elam from GCUC, Rob Trainor from Carr Workplaces, Ari Kepnes from Density, and James Shannon from essensys.
Why is security important?
It’s a sad fact that almost one-third of organizations have experienced cyber attacks on operational technology infrastructure, and the cost of cybercrime keeps rising. It’s expected to hit $6 trillion annually by 2021.
And in case you think it won’t happen to you, consider this — companies in the United States face the highest threat from ransomware attacks, as the nation is home to one of the largest internet-connected populations in the world (Symantec).
What can you do about it?
The first line of defence is education, and during essensys’ recent webinar, we learned some of the key tech security requirements that coworking spaces and flexible offices should be implementing. Here are the highlights from the panel discussion.
The Basics You Should Be Covering
According to Ari Kepnes from Density, 37.8% of smart building automation systems were attacked in the first half of 2019. This shows that even as technology and security defences are advancing, so are the ability of hackers and the malware they are developing.
As James Shannon from essensys explained, it’s important to cover the basics first.
“WiFi in public spaces typically uses an unencrypted network with the same password. You shouldn’t have any shared passwords across your space at all – we recommend that everyone operates from a segmented network with their own unique password for each WiFi network, as this prevents non-members having access to the network.”
It’s equally important to think about the physical access to the building, and to your floor. How easy is it to access the space? How much friction is involved? What happens if members lose their key fob?
Access must be secure, because members want to know that their belongings are safe inside, yet it must be easy to navigate. Multiple barriers of entry will only frustrate your members and put off potential clients.
Where possible, Shannon recommended using the same tech solution for access to the building along with your space, to facilitate ease of entry and reduce the need to carry multiple keys.
Kepnes added that the “missing link we’re trying to figure out, as an industry, is the balance between customer experience and good security.” However, he stressed that it’s important to have the security where you need it; “that’s a strategic question and not just a tactical one.”
Even if you don’t yet have corporate clients, it pays to think about their needs ahead of time.
“Today, coworking has been adopted globally and corporations are flocking to coworking spaces for cost savings and employee retention,” said Liz Elam. “Coworking operators are being asked questions they haven’t been asked before, about tech networks and security.”
Liz stressed the need to get educated and find the right platform to facilitate future growth, particularly as security requirements become more complex.
“Get the foundation right, so you can attract any member and scale quicker. Get it right from the beginning; let the platform handle the work so you and your team can focus on your members, your space and your community.”
Shannon noted that many corporates, and indeed any company in the tech industry, will want to see a secure infrastructure with private logins, encrypted networks, and potentially built-in firewalls, so they can layer their security stack on top of a sound foundation.
Think Big: Build Solid Foundations
“The mindset that, ‘I’m only opening one or two spaces, this doesn’t apply to me’ is an easy trap to fall into,” said Shannon. As operators scale, in line with the growth of the industry, security and infrastructure are among the hardest things to change.
“Our advice is to pick a platform early, which avoids you having to deal with multiple vendors, systems and logins, so you can easily repeat and scale, and maintain security across your space and sites.”
Look for a single interface with ease of entry into the space, with individual logins, encrypted networks, and easy onboarding. These basic requirements will never change, so make sure the platform you choose takes care of these requirements as standard.
The panel noted that while you may spend more initially, most platforms have flexible business models to allow you to scale as your spaces grow.
Balancing Investment with Corporate Needs
Tech platforms do represent a significant investment. But while the panel urged operators not to cut corners, they also advised against bending over backwards for corporate clients that may not be worth long-term investment.
In one example, the panel discussed a major corporate who was prepared to put 20% of their workforce into coworking. The operator had to build out a space for them with their own security and numerous requirements, all of which the operator was able to meet, resulting in a significant corporate membership.
But sometimes, it doesn’t make sense to meet corporate demands.
In another situation, a corporation had very specific, complicated security requirements, which the coworking space couldn’t (or decided not to) meet, because the organization wasn’t willing to make a commitment beyond month-to-month.
In that situation it didn’t make sense to invest heavily in specific tech solutions that the majority of other clients in the space wouldn’t need.
A key challenge that remains to be solved is balancing the user experience with effective security. One way to begin working on this challenge is to collect and analyse workspace data.
This not only tells you how successfully members are interacting with your security solutions, it also informs you of their space usage.
“We want more seamless and convenient experiences,” commented Kepnes, “and in order to do that, data is incredibly helpful.”
For instance, in one example Kepnes found that 36% of the time the meeting rooms in a specific workspace were only being used by one person. This revealed that one person was using a meeting room as a private office, which offered numerous insights into the center’s design and usability.
Rob Trainor from Carr Workplaces noted that most new members aren’t asking the right questions around security.
This, he says, presents a good opportunity for operators to provide basic education on the subject and explain the benefits of your tech services. “Help guide prospective members to the questions they should be asking and help them understand what it is they need, and how your space can provide for them.”
Elam added that security is a great way to differentiate yourself. “Being able to say to a corporate customer that you’ve already thought about their potential security needs is a great way to get some corporate leases signed.”
Looking ahead, the panel agreed that while there is still much to be done to improve the relationship between security and the workplace experience, the more pressing priority is to improve the security levels of coworking spaces and open conversations around the security hierarchy. This will help to educate operators and members alike on security best practices, and enable independent spaces to better compete for corporate business in the future.
For more information about safeguarding your flexible workspace, download this ebook from essensys.