January 06, 2015

A Clean Desk Policy: Your New Year's Resolution

It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to the latest fad diets or finally getting round to joining the local gym to shed those festive pounds.  Or maybe it’s forgoing the daily visit to the local coffee shop to ease the January financial fallout from the seasonal shopping splurge.

As we look to making a fresh start in areas of our personal lives, it’s also a great opportunity to kick start some good housekeeping habits in the workplace.

After the excesses of the festive season, now is the perfect time to consider clearing the decks and implementing a Clean Desk Policy.

A Clean Desk Policy directs employees to keep their desks and work spaces clear and uncluttered at all times.  As well as improving office aesthetics, it’s also an easy way to place specific emphasis on protecting sensitive information.

To best protect your company's sensitive data, your workplace should provide lockable filing cabinets or other suitable storage, as well as secure settings and passwords for electronic devices. All employees should be compelled to password-protect their computers, laptops, mobile phones and other storage devices, and remove any printed and visible information, when they leave their desks – even if it’s just to grab a quick coffee. (Of course, when information is no longer needed, it should be placed in a locked console for secure shredding.)

A Clean Desk Policy helps improve your working environment and protect your company in many ways, including: 

1. Data Protection law compliance
All organisations are legally compelled by the Data Protection Act to protect the personal information of living individuals (employees, customers, patients, pupils, etc.), that includes not leaving it lying around on unattended desks for casual passers-by to see - the penalty for non-compliance is a fine of up to £500,000

2. Reduced data breach risk
When private and sensitive information is protected from unauthorised view, there is less likelihood of information theft, fraud or a security breach, the costs of which can run into the £millions – in fines, reputation damage and lost business

3. Reduced opportunities for dishonesty
Leaving sensitive information unattended and visible may attract prying eyes – insider fraud is a growing issue, so it makes good sense to cut off any avenues for an opportunist would-be fraudster to exploit

4. Saved money and resources
Encouraging ‘digitised’, as opposed to printed, documents cuts paper use, which is a positive step for your bottom line and the environment

5. Creating a positive working environment
Uncluttered work spaces provide a positive impact on employees and help create a good impression for visitors  

6. Saved time
Research shows that many employees waste time during their working day searching for information - a tidy space will encourage greater organisation and help reduce time wasted rummaging through haphazard piles of paperwork

7. May save your sanity!
‘Organised’ employees spend more time focussed on their jobs and less time stressing out because they can’t find something!

A Clean Desk Policy should be a written document that is communicated to all employees. Why not use the New Year as a timely excuse to take the plunge and establish a Clean Desk Policy in your work place.