April 23, 2024

Data Management: How to Declutter the Office

Decluttering is one of the simplest ways to reduce the risk of a data breach and help protect a business's reputation. A comprehensive data management process will enhance workflow and the overall efficiency of a workplace. But decluttering is also essential to help protect confidential information from internal and external fraud as well as security breaches caused by human error. Files left on desks and in common areas such as printing stations, as well as old data on hard drives, are just what information thieves are looking for. In addition to high financial costs, a data breach can cause compliance-related legal issues and potentially damage a business’s reputation.

Help Protect your Workplace with these Simple Decluttering Tips: 

Declutter Workspaces

  • Remove items that clutter the tops of desks except those used daily, such as phones, computers, monitors, and essential supplies. Items that should be removed include sticky notes that contain confidential information like passwords.
  • Review all documents. Place current projects in labeled files and locked in a desk file cabinet. Store all other confidential information in larger locked file cabinets in the office.
  • Periodically, go through documents in file cabinets and, if a document is no longer needed for business and/or compliance purposes according to your document retention policy, place them in a secured console for shredding.
  • Desk drawers often fill up with office supplies, business cards, unorganized papers, cords, and junk. Remove everything from drawers and create an “in use” pile and a “not in use” pile. Put the “in use” items back into the drawer. Throw out, recycle, or securely destroy other items.
  • Digitize paper documents when possible. Depending on security policies, digitized data can be accessed from outside the office (which means paper documents are not being removed from the office, where the risk of loss or theft increases).
  • Do not stockpile old electronic equipment. Organizations frequently upgrade their technology, but many fail to securely dispose of old IT equipment and hard drives, potentially leaving sensitive information at risk. One of the most effective methods for disposing of old hard drives is to have them physically destroyed using a professional hard drive and media destruction service. 

Clean Up Digital Information

  • Scheduled audits of digital information are an important step in keeping your electronic files and databases secure. For example, file all emails using a simple filing system: reply, waiting, archive. Delete files no longer needed and/or store them for better access.
  • Protect storage devices such as CDs, DVDs or USB drives containing restricted or sensitive information. There should be a lockable drawer or cupboard to store devices containing confidential information. Keep them out of sight and/or lock them in a drawer at the end of each day. Physically destroy devices when they become obsolete to ensure information is no longer accessible. 

In and Out of Office 

  • Prevent untidy office spaces by implementing and enforcing easy-to-follow data protection policies, like a clean desk policy, which helps ensure physical documents are shredded or locked away and that all computing devices are protected when an employee leaves a workspace. It helps make decluttering an ongoing process.
  • Even when leaving the desk or work area for a short period, employees should make sure confidential information is not visible, and computer screens should be locked. 
  • Out-of-office workers should view sensitive data in private areas when working outside of the office. If no private area is available, workers should consider using a laptop privacy filter, which blocks computer screens from onlookers. 
  • Mobile and other electronic devices should never be left unattended in the office or in a vehicle and all devices should be protected.  

Secure Document Disposal

  • Establish a document retention policy so that confidential data is flagged with destruction dates.
  • A declutter office plan should include a shred-it-all policy that encourages the regular destruction of all documents. This policy encourages employees to consider if there are any requirements to retain the document (in accordance with internal policy) and, if not, then immediately and securely dispose of it.
  • Documents should never be thrown into unsecured recycling or garbage bins. Instead, partner with a professional document destruction services provider.

Learn more about Shred-it®’s professional document and hard drive destruction services available to address the specific security needs of your workplace.