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Why a clean desk policy is important to workplace security—and productivity

January 22, 2018

Why a clean desk policy is important to workplace security—and productivity

An important step toward greater workplace security is right before your customers’ very eyes.

Statistics show that 55% of theft in the workplace occurs at employees’ desk. Which is why implementing, maintaining and enforcing a clean desk policy is key to preventing information theft and security breaches within an organization. Such a policy stipulates that all documents—including receipts, résumés, boarding passes, printed PowerPoint presentations and anything that contains sensitive or personal information—be stored in locked file cabinets when employees are away from their desks.

Kevin Pollack, vice president of Shred-it, the world’s largest document destruction company, says that employees should follow the “three Ps of office organization: plan, protect and pick up”—taking careful inventory of those documents that will be needed during the workday and filing away and locking those that won’t be—and maintain a tidy workspace at all times. He also stresses the importance of maintaining a culture of security from the top down in an organization, having senior managers promoting a clean desk policy and leading by example.

Maintaining a clean desk policy also involves document shredding services of paper documents and the proper disposal of hard drives and e-media. Instead of open bins, companies should provide locked containers so that discarded documents can be securely stored until they can be retrieved and destroyed properly.

5 reasons a clean desk policy makes sense in the workplace

  1. First and foremost, it helps protect sensitive information—and keeps prying eyes from seeing information they shouldn’t have access to.
  2. It helps a company maintain compliance, including ISO27001 and HIPAA requirements. Keeping sensitive documents locked away safely prevents personal and other private and sensitive data from getting into the wrong hands.
  3. It improves efficiency. According to an IDC report, a typical employee in an organization spends 2.5 hours a day searching for information. It stands to reason that the more organized and uncluttered the workspace, the easier it will be to retrieve the information one needs to do a job.
  4. It sends a message of efficiency and professionalism, creating a favorable impression for clients and prospective employees. In a survey conducted by the staffing firm Adecco, 57% of the respondents said they judged coworkers by the appearance of their workspaces.
  5. It reduces stress within an organization. A recent report issued by Office Max found that office clutter can actually undermine employee productivity and motivation.

As you can see, a clean desk policy offers other benefits over and above security. It’s good business—for SMBs as well as large-scale enterprises.