By Gilles Ortega 

Security cameras have become ubiquitous on the street to the point where we have become used to them. Many of us trust the data protection legislation in place. Be it at our bank’s cash machine or the local supermarket, we know that we are being filmed. And in the end we have to admit that we do feel a bit safer because of it.

However, when it comes to our own office cubicle, most of us will feel very differently. Surveillance in office environments is a very sensitive issue which requires a true balancing act. There are business reasons from an office manager’s perspective as well as the privacy concerns and data protection rights of the office worker.

Employees will be more comfortable with surveillance if their office is frequented by the general public. An uncomfortable truth in the office environment, whether in an insurance company or a social services office, is the potential for violence against workers. Surveillance provides the peace of mind that such attacks are documented and footage can be used as evidence in court.

Addressing Privacy Concerns

Office managers should be very forthcoming from the outset with details on how long footage is stored, who has access to the recorded material and under what conditions. This open communication is crucial in building trust with the office staff and will alleviate initial discomfort to a large degree.

For office environments where the general public is not present, security concerns can include after hours theft of IT equipment, cases of office rage, sexual harassment and bullying as well as access control to prevent theft of confidential company information. While most office staff will understand that areas such as the reception desk, fire exits and hallways are monitored by cameras, having these cameras directed at their cubicles and desks will be taking it one step too far for most.

An open and transparent dialog is crucial to be able to effectively address staff concerns. There are a range of solutions which can be offered to this end. Perhaps the cameras are kept inactive during office hours and go live only when the cleaners come in at night. Maybe all footage is encrypted by default and can only be accessed if an actual incident has occurred and the staff members concerned agree to the material being reviewed.

If office workers feel their concerns are heard and addressed they will see a network surveillance rollout in their office environment not as an intrusion to their privacy, not as another means of monitoring their desk presence but as added security which should be the sole motive of any such measure taken by an office manager. 

Meeting Data Protection Requirements

With next generation technology such as IP-based network video cameras, office managers can meet the data protection requirements set by current legislation and are able to address employee concerns by encrypting recordings and enabling only password-protected access to the video footage.

Network cameras are digital and have replaced older analog CCTV systems. They can be managed and powered via the office’s existing Ethernet network (LAN) and therefore mounted with little effort as no extra power or video cables need to be laid.

Network cameras are smart devices. Small installations of up to 10 network cameras can be laid out very cost-efficiently by storing video footage and running video management software on the cameras themselves, no longer requiring a dedicated storage device and a dedicated desktop PC to manage the system.

Through an open dialog with employees, office managers can find solutions that address their business needs and cater to the privacy concerns of staff. It may be a balancing act but the new digital surveillance technology allows for full flexibility in setup. Whether encryption, password protection or after hours only recording is deployed, there is plenty of middle ground to make today’s office environments more secure.