While workplace safety and security is an issue that every entrepreneur and small business owner has to think about, they are often more important to a female entrepreneur who works alone. As a general rule, it is not safe to work in an isolated office location, even for men. But for women entrepreneurs who have limited funding, these types of office environments may be the only alternative that fits their limited start-up budget. Working in isolation can put anyone at risk for security problems. Putting aside security risks, working in a stand-alone office with no contact with other people can also be a major safety factor when it comes to possible accidents that may occur. Nobody ever expects a home accident to happen, but a slip down the stairs or a kitchen grease fire can occur in the blink of an eye.
Entrepreneurs who work from home often become complacent with regard to home safety making themselves “softer targets.” Women who work alone need to learn best safety and security practices when working from home. The real security problem begins when your small business address is your home address, because criminals and disgruntled customers know where you live. Nearly one-fifth of all incidents of violent victimization in Canada’s ten provinces, including physical assault, sexual assault and robbery, occurred in the victim’s workplace. This does not include those victims who call their home their workplace – so the numbers are sure to be higher if they did.
An interesting article in itBusiness.ca talks about how one woman entrepreneur turned her personal security concerns into a business. Deena Douara turned fear into the catalyst for her invention. She developed a concept for a mobile phone app that could alert authorities if a potential emergency situation were to arise. While Douara is not the only entrepreneur to think of turning smartphones into a personal safety alarm, her app “WalkSafe” is location-aware and can even monitor for movement! The best part is that this app was developed by a woman entrepreneur with other women entrepreneurs in mind.
In the interest of safety and security, many women entrepreneurs will look at having office space at an office business centre that adds various types of security for her. Because business centres offer a centralized reception area, nobody has direct access to an individual office suite without checking in first with reception. Even if an intruder or unwelcomed visitor circumvents the receptionist, security cameras in the halls and staff usually notice unfamiliar people in the facility. Business centre staff will often stop unknown visitors and make sure they are supposed to be where they are.
Here are just a few ways you can help to keep your office safe and secure.
- Be aware of everyone that goes in and out of your office space. Does that person belong there? If you do not recognize someone ask “How can I help you?” or offer directions to the reception area.
- Never leave purses, wallets, cellphones, tablets or other valuables in plain view or in unlocked drawers. These items are too easy to snatch and grab within seconds.
- Enforce your office “No Solicitation” policy. Often this can just be a ruse to scope out the office and find your security vulnerabilities.
- Protect your office keys and/or ID badges. Don’t leave them lying around and never lend them to others – unless they are someone you work with or someone you know you can trust. Even if you know the person, question why they need to borrow yours.
- Keep your office door locked, even if it is just to slip down the hall to get a coffee or to use the restroom.
- When working late in the office, make sure you take extra precautions. Lock doors, let people know where you are, and make sure you have a safe way to get back to your car or public transit. Do not be afraid to ask building security to walk you to your car or transit stop.
- Do not leave computers unlocked when you are not present. Lock your screen or use a timed screensaver to lock your computer, requiring a log-in to get back on.
- Be aware and be proactive. If you think something might be amiss, then report it. Reporting it might just be enough to keep you (and others around you) safe and secure.
When you are on the road and visiting other businesses…..
- When you enter an office or meeting place alone, be aware of your surroundings.
- Let others know who you are visiting and how long you expect to stay.
- Have a safety call set up in case you do not check in at the expected end of your meeting