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Document Retention Policy: 7 Reasons Why Every Workplace Should Have One

Posted December 21, 2017 by Lynn Brown

Establishing a document retention policy is so important today.

Not only will it help to manage the dizzying overload of information in the workplace but it will prioritize information security too.  

A document retention policy identifies confidential information and categorizes it by how and where documents are stored (electronically or in paper) and the required retention period based on federal, state, and other regulatory requirements.

Here are 7 reasons why every workplace should have a document retention policy:

  1. EFFICIENCY: Some organizations still store and destroy documents in a haphazard way. But over-saving records or destroying them too soon can be problematic. A document retention policy as part of a comprehensive document management process will detail how to organize documents for storage, retrieval, and record-keeping. This will make locating and retrieving records much easier. Plus, the policy will flag the expiry date and how the document will be destroyed.
  2. COST SAVINGS: There are costs related to maintaining unnecessary records. Employees waste time and money looking for documents, and there are storage costs for office space, filing cabinets, hard drives, and cloud storage.   
  3. COMPLIANCE: Failure to comply with state and federal privacy laws and destroying records before the end of a required retention period can result in penalties; also, records may be needed to defend other claims. Manage risk by using the legal department or counsel and trusted third parties to ensure company policies comply with current and new regulations.  
  4. CULTURE OF SECURITY: A comprehensive policy includes measures to ensure the security of records whether they’re stored as hard copy or digital. Embedding these regulations so they are part of employee training and a standard workplace process will help strengthen a culture of security throughout the organization.
  5. ACCESS CONTROL: A number of laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), contain specific provisions for who may access information and how it may be used. Generally, information should be made available only on a need-to-know basis.
  6. DE-CLUTTERING: Too much clutter in the workplace can increase employee stress and reduce productivity. A data retention policy, in effect, gives permission to delete digital content and dispose of paper records. With electronic records, it is not uncommon to buy more storage instead of deleting unnecessary files. While digital file deletion will help to clean up the hard drive, it’s important to note that deleted data can still be restored with special software. When hard drives are obsolete or broken down, have them physically destroyed to protect and guarantee all data is destroyed.
  7. DESTRUCTION: Any records containing confidential, personal, or financial information should be securely shredded when they are no longer needed or when retention requirements expire. Partnering with a trustworthy document destruction company is recommended because it will provide a secure chain of custody for document destruction. This would include tamper-proof consoles for paper documents that are no longer needed and scheduled service for secure shredding by security-trained personnel. A Certificate of Destruction should be issued after every shred. Hard drive and e-media destruction services should also be provided.

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