Great Expectations: A personal perspective on safety and security in the era of coworking


As a woman, I have certain expectations for what a safe workplace should be, and most may not differ greatly from those of my male coworkers.

I want to be confident that if I step away from my belongings, they will still be there when I get back. I should be able to have a confidential conversation in a private setting. When I’m focusing on my work, I would prefer not to be fending off unwanted pitches, of any kind. And I want to be very sure that the workplace enforces policies against unprofessional and inappropriate behavior, including un-welcomed advances.

But with a workforce that has been liberated from corporate cubicles and is increasingly choosing to work in coworking facilities, how can personal privacy and safety be ensured?

I learned a lot about the value of a safe and welcoming workplace in my first job, where I had a colleague who often felt it necessary to remark on my looks. While at first flattering, the overtures progressed quickly to more aggressive propositions which continued even after I expressed my discomfort. I was forced to channel my inner Greta Garbo uttering “I want to be alone,” before ultimately escalating to HR – who I knew would have my back.

Of course, I don’t really want to work alone. I want to be around others and feel part of a community, as do 84% of coworkers based on a recent survey. I value my privacy and security, and I should not be expected to lower my expectations because I choose to work in a coworking facility.

Vinay Kantak, VP of Platform Services for Serendipity Labs Coworking, who is responsible for both online and on-premise security, recently penned a blog, Don’t Play Games When It Comes to Your Safety and Security for this The Inspired Worklife series. In it he notes the questions you should be asking your future or current coworking facility to determine what safety and security practices are in place. Below, I’ve added a few of my own, now that my expectations have been raised by working at Serendipity Labs. Adding these to Vinay’s list might help you determine which coworking community is right for you:

  • Are the desks made in a way that, regardless of your choice of outfit, protects you from feeling exposed?
  • Are privacy features designed into offices and meeting rooms, or will you be in a glass fishbowl where you feel like you are on display?
  • Are there a variety of seating options, so you don’t need to struggle to hop onto a tall chair or feel like a child forced to sit cross-legged on a beanbag?
  • If the ambient music, daytime communal events, or general noise level become distracting, will anyone address your concerns and are they willing to make a change to accommodate you?
  • If you are feeling harassed – either by an aggressive coworker peddling their wares, or worse, sexually – are there rules and a process in place to step in and protect you?

From that first job until now, I’ve never shied away from opportunities to do something new, because I have been fortunate to work with experienced professionals whom I trusted to support me when I needed it. As business leaders, we have succeeded by often being willing to take similar leaps of faith. For coworkers, that leap is choosing a provider who is willing to ensure their safety and security. And isn’t it nice to know someone has your back, just in case you need it?

Paula Gomprecht is the Vice President of Marketing with Serendipity Labs.