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How to implement a secure clean-desk policy

Every business has confidential information. Employee data, client records, trade secrets—all must be protected. And because nearly every employee handles sensitive information every day, it can seem like a daunting task to keep that information safe.

To protect your confidential information from unauthorized individuals—inside and outside your company—implement a clean-desk policy. A clean-desk policy requires employees to keep their workspaces clear of paper, files and clutter to improve efficiency and organization, but most importantly security.

When implemented properly, a clean-desk policy empowers employees to manage their confidential documents carefully while keeping their workspaces clean. By following the steps below, you can effectively institute a clean-desk policy within your office to help keep information safe and your business protected.

Lead by example.

Rules are important, but so is the why. Educating your staff is paramount to gaining their support. Opening a dialogue for questions and answers as well as allowing them to ask why a clean-desk policy is beneficial to their safety, security and organization is essential to your program’s success. Start with the top and cascade the implementation of your policy through the ranks. When everyone is involved and understands there will inevitably be better buy in and adherence.

As the policy rolls out, consider adding a friendly reminder about desk cleanliness to your email signature. Your team will get used to thinking about tidying their workspace and you can provide gentle reminders while saving paper. Be sure to set the signature to only internal emails.

Create an easy-to-follow process.

Your company’s clean-desk policy needs to become routine for every team member if you want it to succeed. To help everyone adopt the habit, make the process of desk-clearing as simple and memorable as possible.

Encourage your staff to do more than just an end the day organizing and filing of documents. Remember a clean-desk policy means no paper is visible on the desk whenever the employee is not present. Encourage employees to focus on securing their computers and straightening up anytime they leave their desks. When desk cleaning is implemented as a normal part of the workday, it becomes easier for everyone to keep their spaces clear and confidential information secure.

Reward employees committed to security.

When you initiate your clean-desk policy, you may need to check on your employees regularly to make sure they are following the new process. Consider assigning one or two individuals responsible for reminding the other team members for the first few months.  Those “spot checks” can stop as soon as everyone gets used to clearing their desks regularly.

Along with friendly reminders make sure to recognize and celebrate those who excel at protecting your company’s information. The team members who consistently commit to cleaning their desks care about keeping your business secure and that is worth celebrating.  Call them out in a meeting, send them an email or simply tell them how much you appreciate their commitment to your security.

Most of your company’s security is in your hands, but it helps to have a partner with expertise in keeping information safe. DataShield offers compliance consulting to businesses of all sizes in every industry. Contact the DataShield team to learn more.


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