Messy desks may be the sign of a creative mind. But they’re also a big compliance risk. That’s because if you leave client files around, outsiders can easily grab them, which can lead to identity theft and other problems.

For this reason, many insurance and investment-advisory offices have so-called “clean desk policies” in which advisors must clean off their desks and secure client information before leaving the office each day. The policy also covers electronic files. Even if your firm has no such requirement, consider adopting one yourself. This is especially important if your office has a lot of visitors, cleaning crews, and vendors on-site.

Here are a few specific measures to consider:

  • Try to keep your workspace neat. This will help you notice when confidential documents need to be put away.
  • When you’re done working with a sensitive document (either paper or electronic), file it away in a lockable file cabinet or password-protected computer.
  • Make sure to secure your laptop with security cables.
  • If possible, do not print sensitive documents. Try to keep them safe and sound on your computer hard drive.
  • Do not print and/or post your computer IDs and passwords on office walls.
  • When you print or fax a confidential client document, retrieve it immediately from the device.
  • When you leave your workspace during the day, secure all documents and log off your computer.
  • Don’t bring sensitive client files home with you if possible.
  • Safeguard all keys used to unlock file cabinets and desks.
  • Avoid bringing confidential documents with you on a business trip.