Co-working is a trend where independent employees from different companies rent out common, shared work spaces. 

These spaces are usually in office buildings, but can take on other forms, such as lofts.

Consider this: 78% of the co-working workforce is under age 40, and 40% of the workforce by 2020 will be independent workers, such as freelancers. To that end, co-working spaces will only become more in demand.

Additionally, co-working spaces aren’t used only by single-person companies. A recent Remote survey revealed 38% of remote workers said co-working spaces are their favorite place to remote work. This indicates traditional companies with remote work policies also have representation in co-working spaces.

The Danger of Co-Working Offices

Co-working is more commonplace than ever because people value the flexibility, independence and convenience of utilizing co-working spaces. However, security threats can exist when employees aren’t careful:

  • Sensitive materials, such as passwords or client information, may be susceptible to prying eyes or ears in a co-working space full of strangers.
  • Leaving a laptop or papers out while using the restroom or stepping away from one’s workspace for a short time could allow someone to steal information or install malware.
  • Shared printers can result in documents being deliberately or inadvertently picked up by others. They can also be vulnerable to hacks that allow others to intercept or reprint documents.
  • Unsecured Wi-Fi networks in a co-working space could increase the potential for hacking.
  • Employees may feel a false sense of security in a space that feels like their office, but in actuality is filled with people from outside of their company.

You don’t need to avoid co-working spaces altogether to protect your data. Read on for tips to work securely.

Protect Your Data in a Co-Working Office

To enjoy the benefits of a co-working space and encourage your employees to do the same, simply abide by some tips and best practices to stay vigilant and protect your data:

  • Implement password and company device requirements, such as automatically logging users off laptops after a short amount of inactivity and requiring cell phone passcodes.
  • Limit the use of shared resources, such as printers, and do not allow devices such as USB drives to be connected to your computer.
  • Use monitor privacy screens, which affix to your computer screen and shield its contents from onlookers.
  • Always use a virtual private network, or VPN, to access company systems and guard against data theft. Even when browsing the web, VPNs can help protect you while connected to Wi-Fi or other untrusted networks.
  • Work with a security professional to conduct a security audit at least once a year, assessing your network, policies and procedures for weaknesses.