What is a Clean Desk Policy - and Should my Company Have it?

 A clean desk policy is a simple way of maintaining your company's security, but often it is overlooked. In this post, we'll look at the pro's and con's of a clean desk policy and why it's increasingly implemented in certain businesses. 

What is a Clean Desk and Clear Screen Policy?

A clean desk policy involves removing any sensitive business information from your desk everyday. This includes: USB sticks, notebooks, business cards and printed documents. A lot of documents, print outs and notes can pile up in a day!

Making sure these are properly filed or disposed of accordingly is the real aim of a clean desk policy. This should be combined with a 'clear screen' policy: logging off every time you are away from your computer.

What is the Purpose of a Clean Desk Policy?

The purpose of a clean desk policy is both security and to improve efficiency at work. At first glance, a clean desk policy can sound a little bit overbearing, but apart from being part of a good general office cleanliness and encouraging practical working environments, a clean desk policy maintains the security of the office from outsiders, or even someone internal!

You might think this would never happen, however,'The Atlantic' suggests managers often have to purchase 20% more product than what is necessary. 

But more worrying than the odd pen going missing, is the security of your business from the threat of malicious actors. In the most serious cases, leaving important documents around could be in breach of the data protection act! If you're based in the EU, you may need to stay aware of GDPR polices.

The GDPR policies have been written flexibly, not only applying to digital data, but physical data too. So a document hacked online is just as significant as a piece of paper swiped from an office. 

This can lead to fines of up to 4% of the company's annual turnover. Quite a serious problem for leaving your desk untidy!

How Would you Implement a Clean Desk Policy?

It's most helpful to have a simple "Clean Desk Checklist" to send to your employees so they're aware of what they can and can't leave behind. If the employee's are not sure of what they can and can't leave behind it can cause confusion, which may lead to wasted time. It also makes it simpler if they can check off their list at the end of each day, to ensure the policy is followed. 

Policies - Red Ring Binder on Office Desktop with Office Supplies and Modern Laptop. Business Concept on Blurred Background. Toned Illustration.-1

There are some simple changes you can make to your office to implement a clean desk policy:

1. Lockable storage

To make life easier for your employees, having lockable desks that they can store their files and documents in is an essential for any clean desk policy. Having employees carrying around their desk's contents defeats the entire purpose! They need a safe space to store their items. 

2. Encourage electronic documents

The best way to avoid leaving paper documents with important information lying around is simply to keep notes on your computer. Keep your company secure and help save the environment too! One suggestion is to add a note on your email footer reminding employees not to print out emails. 

3. Friendly email to employees

A friendly nudge to employees at the end of each day can help to encourage this behaviour. Just make sure it doesn't come across as though you are punishing them or being unnecessarily over-vigilant. After a while, it will become a habit to ensure the clean desk policy is followed. 

4. Make it a competition

Everyone likes rewards. Rewarding those that stick to the policy is probably the best way to encourage this initiative and make it seem less oppressive and provides benefits for those who stick to it. Remember you don't want the policy to turn into an office shaming email for untidy Ted. 

5. Encourage Senior Management of the Benefits

If the initiative is coming from the top down it's much more likely to be effective, making sure that senior management back the policy (and stick to it too!) is a great way to lead by example for the rest of the business.  

Pros and Cons of a Clean Desk Policy: 

Pro: Keeps valuable data secure. As said earlier, leaving a printed out email or any sensitive data can lead to a breach of GDPR regulations. To make sure you're safe- keep it clean. 

Pro: Environmentally friendly. Adding a short reminder to the end of emails to avoid printing out documents saves the environment as well as the potential risk of a security breach! So stay secure while saving the environment! 

Pro: Looks more professional. If you're the type of company that often has clients into the office, impress them with how professional it is. Clients may see your office as a reflection as your organisation, so you don't want that impression to be disorganised and messy!

Con: Time consuming and hard to enforce. Let's face it, having a member of staff walk around at the end of each day to check the rule has been enforced isn't the greatest job in the world and is time consuming for the employee. Added to this is the time each employee will have to spend tidying their desk each day - this adds up! Although there is a counter-argument that cleaner desks save employees time they would spend looking for documents. 

Con: Can seem over the top to employees. Employees may look at this initiative as over the top and time spent that they could be doing more valuable work. Nobody wants a helicopter boss breathing down your neck about paper left on your desk. Make sure everyone is clear about why the policy is important from a security stand-point. 

Con: Takes away from employee freedom. An interesting study by Haslam and Knight found that the more empowered that workers felt over their won workspace the happier they were, whereas "if they disliked the office space, they also disliked the company that was hosting it, and they disliked the task they were doing in it". By putting restrictions on what employees can and can't have on their desk- it limits their sense of freedom and control of their environment, which may leave them dissatisfied. Therefore, you must strike a balance between allowing personalisation and keeping a tidy workspace. 


What is a good example of a Clean Desk Policy?

The key to an effective Clean Desk Policy, is making sure you have created a clear policy that everyone is aware of. Automating and tracking the policy should ensure that the policy is implemented company-wide. 

To download our Clean Desk Policy Template: Click Here