Security and the Open Office Environment - Security Boulevard

Security and the Open Office Environment

Once upon a time, employees spent their days in offices or cubicles, in their own space apart from other employees. Today it’s much different, with employees working in open-plan offices, where large, co-working tables replace closed-off cubicles.

Surprisingly, 70% of all offices have an open-style floor plan. Such a setup can reap benefits such as improved collaboration, but it also has its drawbacks.

In some cases, open-plan offices compromise the security of the company and its employees. It makes sense, if you think about it: With less privacy, information meant to be confidential is accessible to everyone in the vicinity.

Your company doesn’t have to give up on its open-plan office, however. Here are three ways to make your open office workspace as secure as it is open.

1. Implement Clear-Desk Policies

One big problem with an open office environment is the placement of confidential documents. An employee typically would store information on their desk, which works fine in a place that’s closed and locked up. However, open-plan seating doesn’t offer protection. Other staffers might see confidential information and use it to their advantage. Insider trading is one such example.

To remedy this situation, implement a clear-desk policy. It’s simple enough: Staffers are required to put everything away at the end of each workday. In addition, provide lockable filing cabinets for employees to store essential papers. This rule applies to computers, too—staffers should password-protect their computers to ensure they’re the only ones who can log in.

Legacy hard drives kept in your open-concept office pose a risk. Hackers can retrieve information, even if you wipe them. The best way to protect data is to destroy old hardware destroyed adequately.

2. Create an Air of Privacy

Open office spaces provide plenty of advantages to both workers and employers. However, a lack of division can have its drawbacks when staffers want to chat about private matters; their voices carry throughout the entire co-working space. Someone hearing delicate information is just as risky as them seeing confidential data.

Luckily, there are plenty of potential solutions to this problem. A white noise machine can prevent outsiders from hearing what you’re saying, while the gentle noise won’t disturb anyone who’s working. And a companywide private messaging system can keep sensitive conversations to a minimum. With the right software, these discussions can be encrypted.

Finally, enclose at least one corner of the office for small meetings and private conversations.

3. Deter In-Office Theft

It’s difficult to sneak into someone’s office, break into their locked desk and steal belongings without detection. An open-concept office removes many of these obstacles, making it easier for expensive items to go missing. Because so many people pass through, it can be hard to pinpoint who’s responsible for missing items.

Make a point to remind staffers not to leave bags or valuables unattended. Give each employee a locked drawer within their desk to ensure things are safe when they step away. Consider giving everyone laptop locks, too. If a computer goes missing, protect the data with features such as remote wipe or encryption, which will jumble up your data and make it illegible.

Consider an overhead camera system to discourage theft. The footage can help pinpoint who’s entered and exited after items go missing.

How to Resolve Safety Concerns in Open Offices

Fortunately, you can have an open concept and secure workplace, as long as you stay vigilant and teach staff to do the same.

The above tips on security in open office environments will help you protect your data from wandering eyes and listening ears. With no information to mine—and no valuables to steal—your office will be as safe as you want it to be. With a secure setup, you can experience all the benefits of an open concept.

Kayla Matthews

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Kayla Matthews

Kayla Matthews writes about cybersecurity, data privacy and technology for Digital Trends, Cloud Tweaks, TechnoBuffalo and The Daily Dot. To read more of Kayla’s articles, visit her blog Productivity Bytes.

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