The definition of workplace security has expanded greatly in today’s digital age. Companies must not only consider employee, customer, and financial safety from external forces – fires, natural disasters, chemical spills and contamination, civil disturbances, terrorism – but also from internal forces – workplace violence, employee theft, intellectual property theft, and data theft.
There are many security risks that could happen within the walls of your office and systems. Your priority must be to provide a safe and secure work environment for your employees and visitors. By law, that means your company must provide an environment free of health and safety hazards, as well as psychological hazards.
But security risks don’t just potentially harm employees. Instances of office theft, fraud, or data theft could cost your company substantially.
What are the biggest office security risks?
According to Statistics Brain, employee theft is costing U.S. businesses $50 billion a year annually. It is the most common workplace security risk and the most costly, as it often goes unnoticed for years. Employee theft runs the gamut of severity – from office supplies and computer equipment to skimming cash and committing fraud.
Another form of employee theft is intellectual property theft. The cost of intellectual property theft is difficult to nail down precisely, but even its most modest cost estimate is staggering. The Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property estimates the annual costs from the loss of intellectual property ranges from $225 billion to $600 billion.
Intellectual property theft is more likely to occur in the form of an employee walking out of the office with sensitive files or hardware than a large international hacking effort. It could happen accidentally – like an employee leaving a sensitive laptop in a cab – or purposefully – like an employee paid by a competitor to smuggle out files.
These numbers do not even account for office burglaries from outside perpetrators. As The Office’s Michael Scott once said, “It is not known how many office robberies occur every second, because there is no Wikipedia entry for Office Robbery Statistics.” There is, however, FBI tracking. And according to the FBI, there were almost 410,000 office burglaries in 2017 with an average value of $2,514 worth of equipment or merchandise stolen.
It’s a sad fact that despite best efforts from companies and security teams, office violence is still a reality for companies around the world. We’ve all read the headlines about disgruntled and deranged employees, ex-employees, or outsiders who have brought violence to an office. In the U.S. alone, two million people a year report being victims of workplace violence.
Typical office emergencies include fires or averse weather scenarios that require building-wide evacuations. Depending on the industry, there may also be the risk of chemical spills and contamination. Companies should also consider the risk – no matter how small – of incidences of civil disturbance or terrorism that would require an office evacuation.
This all makes it seem like leaving your house is some seriously scary business. However, I should remind you that you could also die while falling out of bed. I’m kidding. Kind of.
Tips for fostering office security
Fortunately, there are a number of steps you can take as a company to prepare for any type of office emergency. How you design your office and the technology you employ will make the difference between an office that is prepared for anything and one that is not.
1. Make it manual
Take the manual tasks out of security and visitor management. Manual systems eliminate human error and make it easy to keep track of records. Close circuit television cameras and motion activated lighting dramatically increase security from a theft perspective from both inside and outside of the organization. Employee ID badges that swipe to open access to elevators or office doors are safer and most cost efficient than human security.
Additionally, an automatic visitor management system eliminates unsecure manual sign in sheets and increases building security from unexpected outsiders. A robust visitor management system will automate the entire guest process from check in to check out. Authorized visitors are printed nametags and visitor badges, and granted access to the appropriate office space. The same system checks guests out automatically when they leave the premises. This ensures the front desk staff and security personnel always know who is inside the building at all times. This information is crucial during a building evacuation or in the case of theft or damage to office property.
2. Present clear rules and procedures
Every employee should know the office rules and procedures for security and emergencies. Do not assume what employees do and do not know. Write down important procedures and make them easily accessible for reference. Employees should know precisely what to do (and not to do) when visitors arrive, if they see an unauthorized guest in a space where they shouldn’t be, if someone is lacking credentials, and where to go and what to do in the case of a physical emergency.
Do not leave your visitors hanging. Your visitor management system should provide indoor mapping with emergency exit routes and directions clearly defined. It is critical that maps can be adjusted and updated in real time for those that need special assistance or handicap accessibility. Every guest who walks the hallways of your office should know where it go in case of an emergency.
3. Review your OSHA compliance
The U.S.’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires companies to have set procedures in place in the case of a fire or other emergency. Schedule regular reviews to ensure your office’s smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors, fire alarm system, and safety stations are functioning properly.
Emergency routes should be clearly marked and emergency exits should be visible and easily identified throughout the entire building. Aisles and passageways to those routes must be clear at all times. OSHA also provides a list of items that are considered hazardous and should be prohibited, such as exposed electrical wires, flammable chemicals, and personal electrical devices like space heaters.
4. Regularly run drills and conduct training
Make evacuation drills and safety training regular occurrences. Not only should every employee know how to quickly exit the building in case of a fire, but they should be experts in company cyber security as well. Make sure your company has high standards for passwords and have a system in place that ensures employees change passwords regularly. Provide basic cyber security training so every employee understands phishing schemes and hacking risks to avoid the most common cyber interruptions and threats.
5. Become GDPR compliant
If your company is based in the EU, you are already GDPR compliant, but this is not yet a requirement for every American company. While it’s not written law yet, we highly suggest you take the steps now to secure your customer and visitor data to cover yourself for future security regulations and better protect your customers’ data today.
Your company likely collects, processes, and stores a tremendous amount of data every day. In addition to your website, your visitor management system should also make it possible for individuals to have control of their personal data.
AskCody redesigned our own visitor management solution to be GDPR compliant when Europe shifted to compliance in 2018. We turned our resources to focus on ensuring data control and security, risk assessment, and extended encryption of any personal data within all of AskCody’s systems. Not only did we assure GDPR compliance, but also this move immensely improved our entire visitor management system. Our Welcome+ visitor management has a strong foundation of security and privacy compliance and a simplified visitor experience. You can read all about our own GDPR compliance here.
The importance of a secure work environment
Knowing your security risks and how to best mitigate them is the best step in creating a safe and secure work environment for all of your employees, both from a physical and psychological perspective. A sense of security is intricately linked with employee happiness. This fosters a greater sense of trust and loyalty between your employees and your company. A strong sense of security also leads to stronger employee engagement and higher productivity.
Today’s most innovative office technology products take security into consideration as much as they do optimization and productivity. In today’s modern work environment, you need all three. Creating a secure work environment from a physical and digital perspective is good for your employees and good for your company.