Every business should provide a safe work environment for workers and a safe environment for business operations, as well as assuring the security of customer information, employee information, and company property. The following are ways to help make any office or workplace more secure – for your employees and your business.

  • Develop specific policies regarding the types of information employees are allowed to share with customers, vendors, suppliers, etc.
  • Never put company mail in an unsecure mailbox. Use locked or Postal Service mailboxes.
  • Institute a “clear desk” policy. At the end of the workday, require employees to store all files, folders, and paperwork in locked drawers or file cabinets. Work in progress should be put away, regardless of whether it is of a sensitive or confidential nature.
  • Create a "last person out" procedure. Set up a procedure where the last person to leave at the end of the workday checks all doors and window, checks bathrooms, and performs any other tasks (like turning off lights, turning on alarms, etc.). Make sure every employee knows what should be done – and that they follow those procedures.
  • Store all sensitive documents in a locked fireproof and waterproof cabinet. Some documents can't be replaced; make sure yours are safe in the event of fire or other disaster. And make sure those documents are put away at the end of the workday.
  • Shred all proprietary and confidential information. Place shredders in convenient locations so they are easy to use.
  • Number and assign all keys. All keys – entry door keys, file keys, desk keys – should be numbered and specifically assigned to employees. Make as few "master" keys as possible, and ensure that only top management has access to master keys. If you provide keys to temporary employees, contractors, or other individuals, make sure those keys are returned either at the end of each day (if appropriate) or at the end of the assignment.
  • Use electronic "keys." Better yet, use electronic keys for entry and interior doors. Electronic keys can be programmed for a specific time period, to only open certain doors, etc. Then, if a key is not returned, your system can be easily reprogrammed to deny access to that key. A side benefit of an electronic key is that, depending on the system, use of that key can be recorded and tracked.
  • Restrict access whenever possible. If your premises are fairly large, consider restricting access to certain areas. For example, production employees may have no work reason to visit your computer rooms. Or you may decide to restrict access to file rooms. In short, the fewer people who can access an area, the fewer people who can access sensitive information. Especially consider restricting access where contractors and visitors are concerned. A good policy to follow is the "minimum access necessary" policy: Only allow visitors (and in some cases, employees) access to the areas required to perform their job functions. And limit the time period – if contractors should only be on-site from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., program their keys to deny access outside those time periods.
  • Provide badges for all visitors. Requiring badges allows employees to quickly determine if an unknown person has been granted access to the premises. Plus, a visitor badge makes it easy to notice guests in your place of business – and for employees to greet those guests. By the same token, never leave reception areas unattended.
  • Install video cameras. Video systems are relatively inexpensive and easy to maintain. Cameras placed at entry areas – especially areas where visitors will enter the premises – not only record the comings and goings of employees and others, they also can deter people from attempting to gain unauthorized access. If you keep exterior doors locked, video cameras can serve as a way to identify people wishing to enter the building; after verification, the door can be unlocked remotely.
  • Encourage employees to keep valuables at home or in their cars. Ask them to keep any other valuables out of sight and preferably locked in desks or cabinets.
  • Ensure parking lots are well-lit and free of hiding places.
  • Create and follow an evacuation plan. Holding a five-minute meeting to explain your plan could save a life. Even if you have a small office, make sure every employee knows when and how to exit the building in the event of an emergency, and just as importantly, where to gather once outside. For example, if you have a fire, the first question firefighters will ask is whether any employees remain inside. By gathering at a specific location, you will immediately know if all your employees are present and accounted for. If you don't know, firefighters are forced to assume an employee may still be inside – and may have to take unnecessary risks to attempt to find them.
  • Set procedures for employees working late or on weekends. If you normally operate during the business day, you know when employees are in the office. But if employees come in late or on the weekends, you may not be aware they are on the premises. Establish a procedure letting you know when employees are working, and then establish policies to make sure they are safe and the workplace secure. Your system could be as simple as setting up Twitter accounts employees follow; workers "tweet" when they arrive at the office on, for example, a Saturday, and let others know how long they expect to be at work. They can then tweet when they leave for the day. Whatever method you choose, setting up a simple notification system allows you and others to know employees are safe and not in need of assistance. If, for example, an employee has a medical emergency and no one else is on the premises. Knowing that employee should have "checked in" by now could make all the difference.
  • Create a system to track the movement of employees who work outside the main workplace. Know where they are, where they should be, and create standard "check-in" procedures so you can be sure they are safe and accounted for. Make sure employees who perform duties outside the workplace have cell phones, especially if their duties require them to enter other people's homes.
  • Require employees who are traveling on company business to provide an itinerary listing stops, times, etc. Have them report in on a regular basis so you can be sure they are safe.

Again, your employees deserve a safe and secure work environment. While some of the above tips may not be appropriate for your business, use them as a starting point to determine ways you can effectively provide security for your employees and your company.