Clean desk policy: let’s clean up now!

By Christa Schwandtner, 17.02.2020

Many companies offer a free choice of workspace in the form of desk sharing. The fact that individual employees no longer need a fixed workspace means that clear usage policies are required, also known as the clean desk policy.


This so-called clean desk policy is stipulated in service contracts and applies to all employees and project groups – including the boardroom. For the latter, exceptions can be introduced if the spatial circumstances allow this.


Influence of the clean desk policy on the working routine.

A clean desk policy is introduced by companies which work with sensitive data, offer desk sharing or maintain contact with customers. To protect sensitive data, both electronic and paper documents must be locked away. Depending on the company sector, these are invoices, customer data or development plans. For desk sharing, the workspace is shared and should be left in a tidy condition. Motivation to work is reduced as soon as there are dirty coffee cups which have to be cleaned up. For regular customer contact, professionalism and neutrality are top priority. The workplace should give external persons an unbiased and tidy impression.


Gaping voids vs. attractive design.

The extent to which companies formulate the clean desk policy depends on the sector and personal experiences. Some companies insist on a tidy working environment. For this, however, the ideal spatial conditions must be created.

A stimulating and attractive workspace is the basis so that employees have a positive perception of a usage policy. As this is a contractual agreement, the consequences must be agreed beforehand. A warning for leaving behind a coffee cup seems a little excessive, while it can be completely appropriate for forgetting confidential data sheets. If there are consequences, there should also be rewards: small bonuses such as free coffee or vouchers can strengthen the motivation to keep things tidy.


Creative order instead of creative chaos.

For many employees, creativity is a topic which is difficult to combine with a clean desk policy. Employers should counteract this issue and create spatial alternatives for creative and open styles of working. Activity-based working is the order of the day. However, the employer shouldn’t be too strict. At the end of the day, working time for many people makes up the lion’s share of the week. Employees find a way of expressing their identity. For someone, this is a sticker from their favourite band on their laptop, for someone else, this is a family photo as their desktop background. It is recommended to create a framework for personal things, because the individuality of every single employee strengthens the whole team, and therefore also the company success.


Motto: Clean desk policy

PLAN: Before you start your work, plan your day and only bring those utensils to your desk that you will really need.

PROTECT: Protect your documents. Store these in physical or digital folders. Don’t forget: protect your electronic devices with passwords or biometric functions.

PICK: At the end of the day, lock up your documents and company laptop and leave an empty desk behind you.

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