Setting up a locked room at home for confidential work projects

There's a clause in many business agreements and non-disclosures called "the locked room" clause. It mandates providing a secure space for confidential materials. With many now working from home, we take a look at how to comply with the locked room requirement at home.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

It's like the classic locked-room mystery with a twist. Instead of a crime with no way out, we're looking at making sure there's no way in. Deep within the corporate world of nondisclosure agreements and hush-hush secret projects, there's the clause known as the locked room.

Typically, such a private space is designed into a working office, but in our work-at-home pandemic world of COVID-19, some office exiles need to implement a locked room protocol at home. That's what we're going to discuss in this article and show in the accompanying video.

Those of you who haven't spent a lot of time in and around the corporate or federal world may not be familiar with the whole locked room clause, but the basic idea is that confidential materials, information, documents, and hardware often need to be brought in and kept secure. In many companies, there are rooms or a room that is designated as a locked room and they can often be inspected by the party who is the other half of that nondisclosure agreement or confidentiality clause.

We're now working from home a lot more, and so we need to implement that kind of function here at home. For some of us, that's not as big a problem because we're not dealing with kids, teenagers, guests, and that sort of stuff. But for some families, the room with all the goodies is irresistible to the teenagers and that room has to be locked, both because of the job and the contractual requirements, and because there might be things in there that are dangerous or delicate that you would normally have at work and are now working with at home.

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The accompanying video shows two things: I'm going to replace the original room doorknob with a Yale Smart Lock and then show a safe that we can use to store some of the most confidential items.

The existing doorknob

The first step is taking out the existing doorknob and replacing it with the Yale Smart Lock. In the accompanying video, you'll see that the doorknob being removed does not have a deadbolt. It's an interior door only, and interior doors tend to not to have deadbolts.

However, many smart locks do. If you're putting a smart lock inside your home, look for a smart lock that has an interior lock without a deadbolt. The Yale YRL256 Assure Lever lock that I installed in the video is one such smart lock.

Installing this is not terribly hard. I needed to remove the old lock first. That can be easy or difficult depending on the door in question and how the original doorknob was installed. In this case, it was just taking a couple of screws out for the latch and then removing the doorknobs themselves.

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Once I had the knob out, I put in the new latch in backward. It's always a good idea to read the directions (can you say RTFM? Sure, I knew you could).

Installing the smart lock

Once I installed the latch, it was important to test, and I tested from outside the room because there's no exit in the room. If I couldn't get the latch open, I wanted to make sure I was outside. I did make it work.

The next thing was to install the electronics. There are three basic parts. The keypad goes outside the room. There is a non-electronic part that basically provides the physical connection and holds the outside lock on the door. You just run the cable that passed through the hole in the door to the other side, which is where the batteries are and where you set your lock code.

I put on the handles, and I was very gratified to find out that they actually, in fact, worked.

Next, I put in the batteries. You get a great little welcome when you get the fourth battery in, which is kind of cute. You'll have to watch the video to see and hear what that is.

At this point, your lock is a smart lock, but it's not connected to your phone, watch, or Wi-Fi. In the case of the Yale lock, I needed to add a small module from August, a company that specializes in smart locks. The lock also supports Alexa, Home Kit, and Google Home, but I was uncomfortable allowing anyone who could say "open my door" to have access.

The second physical factor: the safe

Now that we have the door lock working, let's take a look at the second part of our system, which is the safe. Most of the newly locked room satisfies the locked room clause. Most items will just be locked in the room, but some things, either of high value or high confidentiality, will need to be locked in the safe.

Yale provided me with a medium-size Alarm Value Safe, which is perfect for this sort of application. There are screw holes in the back and screw holes in the bottom, so the safe can be secured to a floor or a wall stud.

This safe is great for hard drives, thumb drives, SSDs, documents, any of those sorts of things or small components that you need to store more securely inside the locked room. The two-layer multi-factor locking is key to making sure that you have the necessary security to meet the standards you are expected to have at the office, now in your home.

Working at home in the "new normal"

There you go. You've seen how to install a smart lock on the door so you can come and go from the room as you need to -- all while keeping others out.

Keep secure items, confidential items, and potentially dangerous items away from the rest of the family while at the same time abiding by the locked room clause and the various agreements you or your company or organization might have imposed.

That's what we're dealing with when we're working at home. We're reinventing our entire work environment to be able to do all that we were doing, or at least most of what we used to do in the office, now at home. It's all part of keeping everybody safe, and hopefully staying productive and on track with all of our projects and our responsibilities.

Let us know whether you have a locked room requirement in the comments below. If you have any other unusual work requirements you have to translate to a home environment, let us know as well. And stay safe out there.

You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

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