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How secure is your office?

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Part one - external threats.

In this first of three blog articles looking at the threats relevant to organisations occupying small offices, we examine the risks from outside and how to mitigate, or even eliminate them.

Let's start with a very topical threat; burglary. Burglary is theft with forcible entry, through break-in or threats to staff and common place now in retail, often motivated as much by notoriety as financial gain. But as retailers install bollards, fog cannons and post security guards, business managers should be on their guard against offenders finding easier targets. Of particular concern is physical or verbal abuse to staff. Physical assets can be insured and replaced; staff wellbeing in the workplace can take much longer to restore.

Mat Arcus of Maxims Accounting had this to say about working from Hastings HIVE, a modern corporate-styled shared office space. "There are lots of things we appreciate very much, but not always the obvious ones. Things like how safe this setup is for our staff, especially our female staff. They are never left alone here, so they can happily keep working, even late, knowing someone will be around for their security." You can read the full interview here: Maxims Accounting

Theft however, involves entry by non-violent means and no forcible entry. Opportunist thieves, or 'stairwell dancers', enter from the street targeting valuables like purses, wallets, computers or even larger items. And intruders may not be easily identified - your editor met one dressed in gardening gear, who chastised him (then managing director) for letting the plants get dusty, saying he would have to swap them out. The theft was recognised when the real plant care team arrived.

High security levels provided by modern serviced offices
Heavy duty auto-locking inner doors at the HIVE separate the reception area from the main office space. Note the CCTV surveillance camera in picture.

Many smaller businesses and branch offices are vulnerable to this type of crime, being 'easy targets'. Entry doors are often left open during the day, with easy walk-in access from the street. Small organisations rarely afford to have a fully manned and secure reception area.

Electronic security tags for each coworker
Staff individually swipe in and out of the HIVE.

Visitors and staff should be logged into the building, preferably using a modern digital tracking system. Ideally, any security plan will include a secure manned or secure virtual reception area.

With electronic security, the site health & safety plan should require individuals to swipe through one at a time, preventing double-person entry (so called 'truck and trailer'). The opportunist thief loves someone holding the door open for them!

Digital registration kiosk provides reception facilities for serviced offices
The HIVE lobby with virtual reception kiosk for visitors to check in. Hosts are alerted by email that their guests have arrived.

Still today however, most burglaries and thefts still occur when people aren't around, after dark, or on the weekend. Thieves mostly try to avoid being seen and avoid anything that gets them noticed, so loud burglar alarms or monitored CCTV systems are effective deterrents.

The best way though to protect against physical threats, is good old-fashioned physical security. Heavy duty external doors that auto-lock outside normal business hours, then equally strong inner doors also with electronic pass auto-locking.

A forced-door or glass-break detection system, on all entry points and windows, should be connected to a loud audible alarm and a monitoring control room. A break in the alarm circuit may be caused by the door being forced or left open by someone, deliberately or accidentally.

The alarm system will ideally alert a security control room, who then alert either the building owner, a security guard company or the occupier, or all three.

Security control room keeps watch over our shared coworking space
Alarm Watch NZ team at work, who provide 24x7 remote monitoring of the HIVE security systems.

Over-threshold vibration alarms on windows or intruder motion alarms should also trigger the building security alarms. Of course an alarm event after hours needs urgent attention and managers must be prepared for such interruptions at night or in the weekend.

A control room authorised to dispatch a mobile security guard to site, to provide first response investigation, is a great addition. And a security guard on site 24 hours would be normal in sensitive premises. Both however are costly to retain and even more expensive to dispatch or have permanently on-site. Local business associations may organise security guard drive-by patrols, with discounted rates for members who want on-site security checks.

Multi-camera CCTV surveillance systems, with storage and online play-back, provide remote visibility of the site, which can help in identifying and then resolving a physical security issue. But setting up a reliable site-wide system with multiple high definition cameras is expensive to provision and needs regular system maintenance.

CCTV provides a 24 hour watch over serviced offices
CCTV image from Sunday 05:50am in May, showing two 'would be' intruders deterred by HIVE security systems. They soon left, but not before causing over $5000 in property damage.

Your last line of defence is insurance, so we asked William Horvath from ICIB insurance brokers in the Hawke's Bay, and a HIVE customer for more than a year, for some industry advice.

"First up, realise we are like paramedics in the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Our first job is to ensure your business survives and business interruption insurance is our 'oxygen tank'. If a key business system or asset is lost, meaning you can't operate, or your workplace becomes a crime scene closed by police for days or weeks, having cashflow to pay staff and suppliers will be vital."

We asked William about the metaphorical fencing on the clifftop. "Often just way too casual - we visit offices where the security system is a bell and a visitors book. In fact one customer recently apologised that they couldn't register me, because their digital tablet had just been stolen!"

"Also realise," said William, "forced-entry burglary has a standard $1000 excess, but unforced entry theft is more than double that at $2500. And if a building has been damaged in a burglary or ram raid, the small-business tenant will usually have to pay the landlord's building policy excess, as well as their own contents excess. And then pay the higher insurance premiums (and cover any higher excess) in the years following a substantial damage claim."

So do corporate level security measures like alarms, monitoring, CCTV and security guards work? "Well, the insurance industry believes so. Corporate-level security systems like those you mention will see premiums reduced from 10 to 20% on average, across all risks."

Coworkers at Hastings HIVE
William Horvath pictured centre, meeting in the HIVE with coworkers

As William notes, most small organisations, small branch offices and those renting in older buildings find proper security hard to implement and even harder to justify. But most of the measures discussed above are standard in a good modern serviced office like Hastings HIVE.

And when there is a break-in or malicious damage at the office, the serviced office provider bears the cost, and covers the excess. Perhaps just as importantly, the service provider takes the late-night phone call from the monitoring control room, and not you...!


If after reviewing this article, you would like to consider renting a serviced office, we've made your research easy with our quarterly updated: List of Coworking Spaces in the Hawke's Bay

Or do please Contact Us directly for a personal tour of Hastings HIVE. A large, modern, shared workspace with 23 serviced offices protected by electronic access, CCTV and 24x7 control room.

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