July 07, 2022

How to Establish a Clean Desk Policy for Your Office

Office workplace with nobody

What is a clean desk policy?

Clean Desk Policy (CDP) is a corporate directive that requires employees to clear any sensitive information from their desk at the end of the working day.

That means all confidential documents, contracts, letters, meeting notes, etc should be removed from the desk and kept under lock and key. CDP measures are taken prevent any security breaches at the organization.

Why put a clean desk policy in place?

Help protect your company, your clients and your reputation.

Most business projects require confidentiality, and everyone in the office handles documents that contain important and often confidential information. That means everyone in your office must protect documents and data from unauthorized access, internally and from outsiders. Maintaining a clean desk policy reduces this risk.

Encourage better organization and productivity for your employees, and provide peace of mind for your customers.

When everyone’s desk is clean and all areas of the company are free from paper and clutter, your office space looks attractive, professional and efficient. Employees feel more in control in a well-organized environment and your customers are sure to have a good impression of your company.

How to implement a clean desk policy:

Put it in writing.

You’ll want to communicate to all employees how to follow the policy, and why it’s important. In addition, you’ll want to specify what the consequences will be if anyone fails to comply with the policy — especially if your organization works with highly sensitive information.

Start at the top.

Your policy has to be taken seriously, especially by your senior management. If managers don’t follow the policy, why should the rest of your employees? So make sure to get agreement from your senior managers to both follow and advocate the policy to everyone.

Add a reminder to your email signatures.

If your organization uses a standardized email signature, it makes sense to also include this reminder at the end of each signature: Please consider the environment before printing this email. Not only will this cut paper use, waste and clutter, it will also reduce expense and help to safeguard important information from getting into the wrong hands.

Provide lockable storage.

You simply can’t have a clean desk policy in the workplace if your employees have nowhere to temporarily store their sensitive documents. Consider purchasing small, lockable storage boxes for employees that can fit under their desks.

Encourage electronic vs. paper documents.

We all know there’s lots of unnecessary printing in every office. If your employees work with more electronic documents, everyone will maintain a cleaner desk and there will be less paper clutter.

Make backups routine.

If you discourage employees from using paper documents, make sure your organization has a dependable backup system and routine in place. You’ll want to be sure everyone’s documents are safe in case power goes down or employee hard-drives crash.

Steps to creating your clean desk policy.

In order to promote a clean desk policy, we recommend you teach the three “P”s of office organization and follow these yourself to set the best example:

PLAN first thing in the morning.

Keep just the things you need for your workday on your desk. Start each day with a few minutes of planning so that you can organize the documents you need for immediate work. File all other folders and documents.

PROTECT information whenever you leave your desk.

You obviously have to leave your desk to attend meetings or to take breaks. But whenever you do, make a quick check to see if there is sensitive information on your desk and place it inside a folder or off your desktop. And for additional security, make sure to switch on your computer’s password-protected screen saver.

PICK UP at the end of the day.

When you leave your desk in the evening, don’t leave documents on it. In order to maintain the security of both your client and employee information, it’s essential to file your documents or lock them up, if necessary. If you get into the habit of cleaning off your desktop every day before you leave, you’ll enjoy the added productivity benefits that come with a clean office first thing in the morning.

How to enforce your clean desk policy:

Display reminders in appropriate areas.

You can post signage in key areas of the office or create and use desk tents to remind each employee to follow the policy. It’s especially important for employees to clean off their desktops at the end of the day.

Appoint one or more employees to monitor office areas.

Your clean desk policy is useless if you don’t enforce it throughout your workplace. Depending on the size of your workplace, you’ll want a manager from each department or your operations or office manager to check everyone’s desk at the end of the day. They should do a quick audit to make sure your employees are following your new policy — no papers, notes,
Post-its or any other documents containing sensitive information should be left on desks. Once everyone gets into the routine, you may be able to do random versus daily checks, based on your type of business and what types of information you handle.

Stay vigilant and keep track.

For those employees who don’t follow the policy, create and use a desk tent or a door hanger with a reminder that they’ve left sensitive documents on their desk. If any employee is noncompliant more than three times, there should be documented consequences, which are up to you to determine.

Reward clean desk employees.

You can do this monthly, by naming each employee with a 100% clean-desk record during group meetings. Or consider thanking your employees for maintaining the policy with an office lunch for everyone. You could even create a contest, based on department teams, to see which department is best at adhering to the policy and feature an award for the winning team. This is a great idea for when you first get started with your new clean desk policy.

About Shred-it® Document Destruction

Shred-it is the only company in the world to offer Shred-it® Solutions, an integrated ecosystem of best-in-class products and services designed specifically to ensure information security and workplace privacy. Shred-it® Document Destruction allows businesses to comply with legislation and ensure that their confidential client, employee and business information is kept secure at all times.

It is important not to mistakenly dispose of sensitive documents in an unsecure trash receptacle. The safest and most environmentally friendly way to ensure the protection of sensitive information is to place all unneeded documents in the secure Shred-it® container before you leave for the day.

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