Paperwork is never a pleasant task, especially when it’s got a little out of control. At Greenaway, we deal with many business owners who have had a more lax approach to paperwork over the years, and are now struggling to get it under control. This usually involves stuffing documents into desk drawers, filing cabinets full to bursting or overflowing archive folders hidden in the cupboard. But in order to make sure you are compliant with data protection regulations, you need to store, use and destroy your paperwork in an organised and secure manner. Not sure how to tackle the disorganised mess? We have some tips for you.
The first thing you need to do is get on top of the problem, and that means decluttering. If you can, bring all of your paperwork together into one place and lock the door for a good sorting session. Then go through each document individually and decide whether it needs to be kept, actioned or thrown away. Stick to these 3 options, as this will stop you making excuses to keep paperwork you don’t really need. Bear in mind that there is some paperwork you will need to keep for legal reasons, or have destroyed securely. Make sure you check government guidelines for what you need to keep before you start. It might also help to have a computer nearby with a list of current clients and what stage they are in your pipeline, so you don’t accidentally throw something away that you still need.
Once you have decluttered your paperwork piles, you will be left with a (hopefully smaller) pile of paperwork left to deal with. This will be paperwork that you need to keep for varying reasons. Some of it will need to be kept for a shorter period of time (until you can deal with it), or some will need to be kept for up to 7 years if it is archive paperwork. So the next thing you need to do is categorise. Split your paperwork into different piles based on its type, who it belongs to, whatever makes sense in your business. Once you have everything fitting nicely into a category, it should be easy to figure out what to do next.
Create A Place For Everything
‘Next’ is of course creating a home for it. If you’ve let your paperwork sort of float around and build up for a long time wherever it falls, now is the perfect time to re-asses and create some sort of paperwork flow in your office. This may involve creating a centralised in tray for all incoming mail, or individual in-trays at the door so that documents are individually split as soon as they arrive. This should go hand in hand with individual employee in-trays and maybe even filing cabinets, depending on the nature of the work you do. You may also want to utilise archive boxes for longer term general business paperwork and records that need to be kept for long periods of time, but not actively used.
Finally, you need to create a safe space to store all the paperwork you don’t need any more. A recycling bin is not a secure space for your sensitive data, and you can’t just leave it on employee desks. Instead, we recommend investing in a rented shredding console. These units are the same size as an average office bin, but come in about desk height. They are lockable, with a small deposit gap to ensure people can’t pull documents back out. You can then enlist a shredding company like Greenaway to empty your console periodically and take the documents inside for shredding, providing you with a certificate of destruction when they are done.
At Greenaway, security is our number one priority, with organisation coming in a close second. Our experts have spent many years helping business owners with paperwork problems organise and declutter their offices, before putting in management processes to ensure it doesn’t get into that state again! If you would like to find out more about our secure shredding consoles, or just get some advice on organising your office, just get in touch with us today.