May 03, 2023

Declutter Workspaces to Help Protect Confidential Data

Any office, no matter the size, can generate large amounts of clutter, partly due to high paper usage. As you read this sentence, more than 199 tons of paper have already been produced worldwide, and U.S. offices alone use 12.1 trillion sheets of paper annually. If not stored or disposed of securely, all of that paper can leave a workspace cluttered and unorganized, which can negatively affect productivity and impact an organization's information security. As a result, businesses of all sizes need a strategy and plan for collecting, using, protecting, and destroying their documents.

There are also negative costs associated with clutter in the workplace. The most common ones are:

  • Time: Employees can waste time looking for things in untidy workspaces.
  • Stress: Physical environments significantly influence our cognition, emotions, and behavior, affecting our decision-making, productivity, and relationships with others. Cluttered spaces can affect our stress and anxiety levels, as well as our ability to focus.
  • Reputation: A cluttered office can send a message of disorganization to employees and visitors. Whether privacy laws are followed or not, people may have concerns about compliance simply because of appearance. Additionally, this clutter could cause a data breach, which has the potential to cost money and impact an organization’s reputation at the same time.
  • Data breaches: Clutter may be associated with a lack of concern for structure, and human error is a common cause of most data breaches. According to the 2022 Data Protection Report, 48% of small business leaders surveyed cited employee error as the source of their data breach. Also, the average cost of a data breach has reached a record high of US$4.35 million, according to the 2022 Cost of a Data Breach report by IBM and the Ponemon Institute.

How to Reduce Clutter and Help Protect Data

Implement a Clean Desk Policy: A clean desk policy helps ensure physical documents are shredded or contained and that all technological devices are password protected each time an employee leaves a workspace. Adopting a clean desk policy helps to reduce clutter, improves the security and confidentiality of information, and contributes to an organized workspace being a best practice throughout the organization.

Incorporate a Shred-it All Policy: This policy encourages the regular destruction of all documents to help ensure no confidential information is left in the open that could potentially fall into the wrong hands.

Benefits of a Professional Shredding Service

Outsourcing document destruction to a trusted third-party vendor is a good strategy to reduce clutter and help protect the workplace from physical data theft. There are two ideal shredding services for organizations: regularly scheduled service and one-time, on-demand paper shredding.

A few of the benefits of regularly scheduled services are:

  • Peace of Mind: The shredding company takes care of scheduling, providing locked consoles (for the collection of documents), and offering security-trained professionals who remove documents for destruction on- or off-site.
  • Storage: The company ensures that data does not accumulate (which happens with infrequent removal) — and has appropriate storage — between shreds.
  • Organization: The service helps reduce clutter in the office.
  • Efficiency: It is more convenient to have a service contract rather than having to call for occasional service.
  • Price: Regularly scheduled service is the most cost-efficient option in most cases.

Here is how a one-time, on-demand shredding service can make a big difference. 

  1. Reduced human error: Research has shown that clutter is distracting, and getting rid of it may help employees do their jobs more effectively and make fewer mistakes.
  2. Better protection against theft: Boxes of old files and papers piled on desks are potentially valuable data to insider fraudsters and other information thieves. Putting physical safeguards in place will help but so will decluttering the office with a one-time, on-demand shred service.
  3. Compliance with privacy laws: Simply throwing out documents in an unsecure manner — or just holding onto them indefinitely — could put a company at risk of violation of privacy laws that govern how confidential information is gathered, stored, and disposed of.
  4. Proof of service. After a one-time, on-demand shred service is complete, a professional service provider will issue a Proof of Service.

Learn more about how Shred-it® can help you avoid paper clutter in the office while helping to protect your physical data with secure document and hard drive destruction. Contact us to get a free quote and security risk assessment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Should People Avoid Throwing Papers in the Trash or Recycling Bins?

Throwing papers in the trash or recycling bins does not protect the confidentiality of the information in the documents because they are often left unattended in the workplace. Malicious insiders can take documents out of the bins when no one is looking. Malicious outsiders or dumpster divers can sift through trash once discarded. This way of disposal can pose a risk of a data breach occurring.

Why Should You Not Throw Away Old Hard Drives?

Throwing away old electronics or wiping data does not always remove its memory, potentially leaving it available for unauthorized parties to take. A hard drive destruction service like Shred-it® offers state-of-the-art destruction in two forms, crushing and shearing, subject to local availability. Both destruction methods leave the data unrecoverable. Crushing involves punching an unfixable hole in the device with 7,500 lbs. of pressure, which breaks the magnetic surfaces. Shearing breaks the device or hard drive into pieces with 40,000 lbs. of force.