We are coming up to the end of the year and the time when many of us look to clean out the clutter in the office. It may be to fill the time during the slow holiday week, but it can also be an opportunity to practice good document retention practices.
Most offices have a retention policy for official company records, i.e., tax returns, employee files, and bank statements. These documents are carefully filed and stored neatly in boxes in a storage area or at an offsite storage facility. Each box is labeled with the owner and the year of the document. Every year a shredding service comes in and shreds the old records.
This is an excellent system for the official company documents, but what about the secondary records in the office? Secondary files are everything that employees keep stashed away in their desks and filing cabinets around the office. They can be customer lists, memos, printouts, or even copies of official company records. It is these records that make up the bulk of the documents an office produces.
Don’t think you need to worry about these old meeting minutes and customer lists? Don’t forget that if you allow your employees to treat this information as the trash, you have no legal recourse under the Corporate Espionage Act if it is given or sold to your competitors. It is also these documents that show up at the most inopportune times. Disgruntled employees often save these records only to produce them for the plaintiff in a lawsuit.
A good records retention policy should cover secondary records and provide for reasonable life spans. Employees should be encouraged to shred documents past their usefulness regularly.
As your employees clean out their desks this month, why not bring in a shredding service and hold a paper-shredding day? Provide everyone with the company’s retention guidelines and encourage them to clean out their desks and file cabinets. Have shredding bins located around the office, so everything ends up in the shredder and not in the trash. Not only do you increase security, but the paper is recycled.
You might also consider allowing each employee to bring in a box of shredding from his or her home. Let everyone know you would like them to bring in any paperwork they have taken residence. Still, they are welcome to fill up the box with any other shredding they need to do him not only helps protect your employees from identity theft but also helps you to control your company’s information better.
Employees will appreciate a break from slow home shredders, and it is an inexpensive perk. The incremental cost to have an additional box shredded is low.