When you work in an organization, it is very likely that you might handle some sort of sensitive or confidential data. Handling such information must be dealt properly or else, it would lead to unauthorized access or possible data loss. Every organization implements necessary security measures to reduce such risks. One such is the clean desk policy.
By implementing a clean desk policy (CDP), companies can benefit from increased productivity and data security.
What is a Clean Desk Policy?
A clean desk policy is a simple and effective protocol that mentions how employees should leave their desks at the end of the day.
Generally, it mandates all employees to ensure that they remove things having classified information such as documents, devices, access cards, USB sticks, CD’s or DVD’s from their desk or even from other areas like meeting rooms or printer rooms in order to prevent unauthorized access in the workplace.
Keep in mind, both clean desk policy as well as clear screen policy, work together in order to ensure that sensitive information related to your company, whether in a digital or physical format is not left unattended.
Why is Clean Desk Policy Important?
A clean desk policy is important for several reasons, it brings awareness among employees on how to take care of the sensitive information related to their work. It also encourages the use of electronic documentation which helps to reduce the clutter around the workspace.
Moreover, it helps an organization to meet the requirements of several rules and regulations.
Benefits of Clean Desk Policy
There are several benefits of implementing a clean desk policy not just to help the organization but also their employees.
1. Encourages digital documentation
Clean desk policy encourages the use of digital documentation rather than using hard copies, which reduces the usage of paper and other material. This can also significantly reduce the time and money spent on resources like papers, ink toners, and printers.
By going paperless and utilizing electronic documentation, you are also encouraging a greener workplace to some extent.
2. Reduces the risk of losing confidential information
Generally, every company deals with some sort of confidential information to an extent. However, banking, healthcare, and government organizations deal with much more sensitive information that needs to be handled with extra care.
As an employee, if your work involves handling such sensitive information you should make sure that you are not leaving any documents or devices openly.
Some of the scenarios were sticking note with user name and password, leaving client-related information, financial or budget plans openly, leaving your workstation without locking, sticking USB sticks and not taking them away while leaving office, leaving critical documents in meeting rooms, and so on.
These actions can lead to data theft, security breaches, and in some cases, it can even go into the wrong hands that can put your company at risk. These consequences can be prevented with CDP.
3. Reduces clutter, gives peace of mind, and improves productivity
When there is clutter around your workspace it can be hard for you to find an item that you are looking for. If you don’t find the item even after spending so much time, you may become more stressed which can reduce your concentration as well as focus on your work.
According to the National Association of Professional Organization, On average a person wastes 4.8 hours per week searching for paper.
As the clean desk policy is known to encourage digital documentation, it can reduce the clutter developed by papers. If your workspace is clean and clutter-free, you tend to focus better on your work which can also improve your productivity.
4. Your office looks smart
A clean and clutter-free office give a professional look, also it can create a great impression to your business clients, partners and most importantly the auditors.
When such executives inspect or walk around your workplace, they will not only find your office organized but it will also develop a good impression and some sort of trustworthiness on the company.
5. Effective use of hot desking
A clean desk policy also helps the organizations to effectively use empty spaces or desks once they are free. When an organization has this policy in place, the employees would leave their desks at the end of their shift taking away all the documents or devices and leaving desk clean such that other employees can comfortably use it.
6. Ensures compliance
Being compliant with a clean desk or clear desk policy means it reflects the company’s ability to meet several top-level rules and regulations such as GDPR, the UK Data Protection act.
Not only that also implementing a clean desk policy is also a major step for organizations in the process of achieving international accreditations like ISO27001.
Steps to Implement Clean Desk Policy
Now you have seen the benefits of clean desk policy. Let’s find out some steps on how to implement a clean desk policy effectively at your office.
1. Include it in your employee training curriculum
As an employer, you must make sure to communicate about the clean desk policy to all your employees, you should also be able to explain to them why it is important to follow and what happens if someone fails to do so.
Include a seminar or an LMS course in your employee training sessions about the policy. Also, to mandate the policy across your staff and also to ensure the data protection, have a document signed.
2. Provide lockable storages
You can’t simply stress your employees to maintain a clean desk policy without providing adequate facilities like lockable storages or compactor storage systems to meet the guidelines and safety concerns.
By providing such facilities, your employees can safely put their documents when they leave work rather than laying them in an unprotected environment.
3. Encourage your employees towards digital documentation
One of the key steps in implementing a clean desk policy is to encourage your employees to follow digital documentation. By doing so, you are not only reducing the usage of paper but indirectly you are also reducing the clutter around your employee’s desk or in office.
4. Placing poster’s or sending periodical emails about the policy
Having posters attached in certain places like the cafeteria, break-out areas and meeting rooms will help to remind your employees about the importance of this policy.
Not only that, you can also send emails periodically to your employees notifying about clean desk policy.
5. Adding reminder to email signature
If your organization uses a standard email signature, it is also better to add reminders like ‘consider the environment before printing this email’ or such, which can help your employees to rethink before they print out the email, whether is it really necessary or not.
6. Make sure to have routine back-ups
If your company is shifting towards digital documentation and discouraging the use of paper documents, make sure that you follow a routine back-up schedule to prevent the loss of data in case of issues like system crashes or mistakenly erasing the data.
7. Provide necessary equipment to dispose documents
In some scenarios, certain data or documents might not be useful and are no longer required to be stored. However, you do not want your employees to freely throw them away.
Careless disposal of documents with sensitive information can ruin the organization’s reputation and impacts its business with clients.
In order to overcome such things and to dispose securely. Provide equipment like a paper shredder, dedicated bins only to dispose of company documents. Make your employees aware of the protocols on handling and disposing of confidential documents.
As an Employee, How to Follow Clean Desk Policy at Work?
Now that you have seen about the implementation and the benefits of the clean desk policy. It is also important from an employee’s perspective to know about how to follow a clean desk policy at work.
1. Organize first
The first thing you must be doing when you are at work is to plan your day accordingly. Spend just a few minutes on how to organize your work. Think about the important documents, devices, files, or folders that are needed for your work.
2. Secure your workplace
It is common that we may go out for a coffee or washroom or to our colleague’s desk. In such scenarios, make sure that you are not leaving any sensitive documents openly on your desk.
Also, make sure that you have locked your Laptop or PC in such scenarios.
3. Clear your desk at end of the day
At the end of the day make sure that you are not leaving any sensitive information openly on your desk.
Incase if you handle confidential data make sure to store them securely at the same time double-check your working space before you leave the office.
In some cases, you might be in a meeting room with your team in such scenarios don’t forget to erase the board before you leave the hall.
How to enforce this Policy
Even though the organization implements a clean desk policy, at some point, some of your employees might ignore it and take it casually. However, keep in mind a clean desk policy is not just meant for making your employee’s desk look clean, but to keep your organization information secured.
1. Make your employees to know the importance
Most things set right once if you make your employees understand the importance of clean desk policy. Make sure to explain to them how it influences the work environment as well as the company’s reputation. At the same time, let them also know what happens if desks were left unclean or with clutter and how it impacts the fellow workers.
2. Make it accountable even for Top management
If you have implemented a clean desk policy at your office, make sure that it applies to all the employees even to the top-level management. If the top-level management were not serious about it. The other employees may also not care about it.
3. Assign a person to monitor
You can assign dedicated persons to monitor the employees whether they were following the policy or not.
If you don’t have enough resources to keep a dedicated person, you can give the responsibilities to the managers or team leaders to make sure the policies are implemented.
How to deal with the Employees who oppose this policy
As an employer, you must keep in mind that not every member of your office is willing to accept clean desk policy. Some might get hurt as you were discouraging their creativity at their desks and it may also influence their productivity.
Some people work better when there is clutter around their workspace. However, you should be able explain them why this policy is important to your company and try to explain it to your employees in a nicer way.
Show them some examples or instances that encourages them to follow the policy rather than simply enforcing them.
Last but not least don’t forget to provide necessary resources to implement CDP to your employees.