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Winston Stewart is the President and CEO of Wincon Security, a Scarborough, Ont.-based security firm that has delivered property monitoring and protective services to retail, commercial, industrial and condominium clients across the Greater Toronto Area for more than 25 years.

Co-working environments are all the rage these days. So, too, are the brands that manage them, such as WeWork. Well, at least WeWork used to be a Wall Street darling until investors began closely analyzing the company’s financial statements and realized the company was losing office-loads of money. But overall, shared office spaces are gaining in popularity because they simply make business sense. Why?

They allow organizations to reduce rental costs, typically require lease commitments of two years or less and offer flexibility to scale based on the company’s performance. If your organization is growing, you can simply rent more desks.

These environments are so popular that WeWork is now the largest single landlord in major centres such as New York, while real estate consultancy CBRE Canada estimates that Canadian cities will see about 6.1 million square feet of space being claimed by co-working facilities by 2020—an increase of 300 percent from 2014. So, what’s not to love about commercial co-habitation?

Plenty, at least where security is concerned.

First, co-working environments generally place disparate organizations together in the same, open-concept offices. This is definitely an efficient use of space and resources, but many of these small organizations lack employee policies that set parameters around workplace behavior. Privacy is another concern. That can be problematic, setting the stage for everything from harassment and human rights complaints to various other forms of legal liability.

Next, there are concerns with staff and asset security. When you manage your own work you can generally control points of entry. It’s virtually impossible to know who’s entering a facility that can be accessed24-hours a day when you’re not the landlord. Workers tend to come and go as they please, bringing clients, service providers and friends into these shared spaces. In most cases, individuals aren’t registered or tracked because, in a co-working environment, the free flow of people and ideas is paramount. It’s what adds to their appeal.


Even though a high proportion of workplace crime—especially theft—is internal, you can better manage risk when you know the people occupying your space and can account for their movements. This is especially important when your company deals in sensitive client information such as credit card or financial data, or proprietary intellectual property.

Many large organizations are now requesting information about security protocols in their RFPs or as part of their supplier vetting processes. They tend to frown upon organizations that can’t reliably secure their office doors, let alone property such as laptops (and the data they may contain).

So, if you find yourself leaning towards renting space at a co-working facility, look for one that offers round-the-clock security, has surveillance cameras and electronic key fobs. The environment should have a documented code of conduct for workers that are consistently enforced, along with lockers to secure assets such as computers.

All tenants should be trained in security protocols and, at the very least, reminded to lock the door before they leave at night. These are simple, effective measures that can help prevent unnecessary loss. The trick is following them on a regular basis.

Sacrificing that control is a challenge that begs an important question: Do the benefits of a co-working space outweigh the security risks? It’s worth seriously considering before moving into one of these ultra-trendy spaces.


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