Restricting Internet Access in a Coworking Space


While the Coworking industry continues to grow, it is facing a very similar question to that of traditional offices and public Wi-Fi access locations. Should operators restrict internet access in the space, and should specific sites be blocked?

In the broadest sense, many companies do have restrictions on internet use to either prevent workplace distractions, or to control bandwidth. However, Coworking, known for having much more of a relaxed atmosphere than traditional office, is starting to turn to this restriction as well. The question then boils down to: Would a Coworking operator be risking the fun and enjoyable aspects of Coworking, in order to increase potential security and bandwidth concerns?

Blocking Websites

Starbucks made the news recently when it announced it was blocking pornographic websites in all their stores. While this may seem like a relatively logical decision, it was faced with some unexpected kickback.

And no, Starbucks isn’t representative of a common office space, but just think of the backlash from members or employees if a company decided to restrict music streaming sites, or YouTube, or countless other ‘entertainment’ sites for the purpose of heightening productivity.

You would figure if you prevent your members from accessing certain sites when they should be working, productivity would increase. Proctor and Gamble notably shut down access to Netflix and Pandora for all 129,000 of its employees. It appears the streaming was choking up their bandwidth.

Beyond just that, there are of course, security concerns. Dangerous websites can expose your system to various risks such as viruses, trojans, and spyware. It also opens up the possibility of employees knowingly or unknowingly exposing company information via email, messengers, and other platforms.

Don’t overlook liability risks involved with open access as well. Copyright information such as software, music, and videos downloaded onto your network could make you liable.

However, having said all that, you have to keep in mind that Coworking, by nature, doesn’t operate like a traditional office. Members aren’t on a typical work schedule. There is an entertainment and social component to thriving in a shared or Coworking space. There is no blanket correct response to blocking websites, especially non vulgar or offensive sites. But it definitely can improve bandwidth management, prevent avoidable security issues, and in theory, increase productivity.

Now, the alternative could be a bit costly but may satisfy the desires of most members. Invest in anti virus software, potentially, Employee Internet Management (EIM) systems, and in cyber security training for everyone in your space. Is it a bit of a chore? Yes. But in the end the potential for damage is much costlier.

Social Media

Social media is as engrained in our society as the air we breathe. It is, for better or for worse, an essential component to successful business, as well as the principal source of entertainment, news, and interaction for millions of people daily.

Therefore, blocking social media sites would come with great challenges. Your members will undoubtedly use it for business purposes, but also for personal entertainment. This very article will be linked on numerous social media avenues and can provide great insight to Coworking operators, whether at work or at home. We do not advocate blocking social media channels even taking into account the inherent challenges to productivity it can create.

Overall, it is wise to block certain sites, make sure your bandwidth is not getting clogged up, and educate members on the importance of cyber security. But don’t go as far as putting a stop to all non-work sites. Not only will some, like social media, have intrinsic value to many, but it’s Coworking we’re talking about. It isn’t a great idea to promote a traditional office-like structure. Members want to use your space to get away from that rigid feel.

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