Global Workplace Analytics predicts that 25-30% of US employees will continue working remotely multiple days a week even as COVID-19 infections slow down. Indeed, this setup brings several benefits to employees and business owners. However, we’re working within a big data culture that is riddled with data breaches and security risks. According to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), remote workers’ devices played a role in security breaches. In 2019, 34% of companies reported that they suffered data loss via their work-from-home employees’ mobile phones and computers.
What Is a Clean Desk Policy?
Organizations have been implementing a mandatory ‘Clean Desk Policy’ to achieve optimum confidentiality, trust, and security. For a brick-and-mortar workplace, this entails requiring employees to clear out their desk before they go home. They have to discard any documents, files, folders, or sticky notes once they are about to leave their stations. Also, they must ensure that there are no USB drives connected to their computers.
Unfortunately, in a remote work setup, companies have to send corporate materials and data outside the physical borders of the office. Of course, as their network widens, they also create cybersecurity threats. This is also the reason why companies that work with remote teams can easily fall prey to online fraud and data theft.
What Are the Benefits of a Clean Desk Policy?
When it comes to implementing a Clean Desk policy, the ISO/IEC 27001 lays out the guidelines your company can follow. It also shows how having this system in place can be advantageous for information security management. Here are some of the benefits that your remote operations can enjoy with a Clean Desk policy:
1. Less Paper = Save Money and the Environment
With a clean desk setup, remote workers are encouraged to course all documents digitally. By reminding work-from-home employees to avoid printing files, you’re also saving on operational costs. What’s more, the initiative will help your company and your workers live a greener lifestyle. Just a fact: the US, for instance, is second only to China in terms of paper and paperboard consumption.
2. Manage Sensitive Information
In a brick-and-mortar office, only authorized people can access the facilities. So, there’s still some level of security for sensitive information. Now, since your employees are working from home, you don’t know who has access to their desks. Without a clean desk policy, your staff members will be free to print documents and leave them lying around. If your organization’s budget permits, you should also issue work laptops to your employees. Make sure that their devices are password-protected and that staff members use them for work exclusively.
3. Meet Compliance Requirements
As we’ve mentioned, having a clean desk policy helps you meet the requirements of ISO 27001. Its implementing guidelines cover the assessment and treatment of information security risks. Data theft and leaks are some of the biggest threats in remote work. A clean desk policy requires that all company-related materials (hard copies) must be discarded at the end of the day. Moreover, it requires storing files in a secure cloud storage instead of locally to avoid leaking sensitive information.
4. A Clean Workspace = A Productive Worker
A Clear Desk policy will result in a workspace that is free of clutter, consequently reducing distractions. Our brains are hard-wired to break focus from time to time. However, we can still take measures to ensure optimum concentration. You may think that a messy workspace or a desktop filled with documents won’t bother you. However, a Princeton University Neuroscience Institute study revealed that our brains like order. It mentioned that our cognitive resources get drained with constant visual reminders of disorganization. So, this means that not having clean desks will reduce your remote employees’ ability to focus.
What Are the Risks that a Clean Desk Policy Mitigates?
Risks naturally increase when you start managing a remote workforce. Here are some of the concerns you might encounter when implementing a clean desk policy:
Cyberattack risks – Compared to traditional office workers, remote employees are more likely to encounter cyber threats. Neglecting work-from-home staff members is like handling a ticking time bomb. When you do not check on them, other people who have access to their homes may copy, print, and even share sensitive corporate information.
Compromising corporate data – Remote employees are mostly free to work anywhere they want. However, this also means that they may choose to set up office in a café and connect to a public Wi-Fi network. When they connect their company-issued device to an unsecured public network, they are opening up the organization’s data to vulnerabilities. After all, data management will not be within the jurisdiction of in-house IT specialists anymore.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) – BYOD wasn’t an issue before, and many viewed it as a cost-effective, practical, trendy, and smart solution for office workers. However, data breaches have become a common occurrence, especially with remote workers using their own laptops and devices for work.
How to Implement a Clean Desk Policy for Your Remote Team?
A Clean Desk Policy can help keep an organization’s data safe, whether it is operating in a remote or a shared office capacity. So, how do you implement this system for your work-from-home team? Here are some tips:
Start with a Clear Guide
As a manager of a remote team, you must establish the expectations for the Clean Desk policy. The first thing you need to do is make a list of the employees who will work from their homes. You should also determine what networks they will access and for how long they will do so. Begin by creating a security checklist that your employees can follow. For instance, you can impose a Clear Screen policy, which will require them to lock their computers whenever they step away from their desk. This way, the contents of their device will be protected from prying eyes.
Require Everyone to Use a Strong Password
One of the first things you must require your remote employees to do is to use strong passwords when joining the company network. You would be surprised as to how easy it is to hack generic passwords. So, this should be part of your clean desk policy guidelines. According to tech security experts, passwords should be changed at least every three months.
Use a Secure VPN
You cannot stop remote workers from bringing their work to their local coffee shop. However, remind them to never connect to public Wi-Fi. Moreover, they should always use a reliable VPN that offers protection and security. It will function as an encrypted barrier that will protect their network from any intruders. This way, no matter where they’re working, they can join the company’s network without fearing that someone may sneak in.
Regularly Update Your Team
Keeping your remote team informed is critical in ensuring the success of your policy implementation. So, send email updates and reminders regularly to ensure that everyone knows if there are changes to the employment discipline policy. Moreover, your employees will appreciate the support they get along the way. They will be confident in complying when they know that the organization has their back. Also, you should educate them about security protocols for data in the event of a power outage.
Use a Reliable Employee Monitoring Tool
Malicious insider breaches are among the common threats when working with a remote team. You can avoid this problem by incorporating an employee monitoring tool with your Clean Desk policy. One of the best apps you can use is Traqq. It takes random screenshots and video recordings without disrupting your team’s work. What’s more, it creates a list of apps used and websites visited by the employee. So, if there are compliance infractions or suspicious activity, a manager can easily spot them.
What’s great about Traqq is that it functions as more than an employee monitoring app. It also tracks billable hours automatically, making timesheet generation and invoicing convenient. So, aside from having a tool that will help you enforce Clean Desk policies, you’ll also have an app for admin tasks.
Every company deals with confidential information to varying degrees. Ensuring that sensitive data stays hidden can be even more challenging when you’re managing remote employees. However, having a Clean Desk policy will be one of the ways you can keep company information secure. Having strict guidelines for your work-from-home staff will safeguard the organization from data threats or breaches.