4 best tips on how to organize and shred documents

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Follow these must-do steps to get more organized in the office!

28 August 20237 mins
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As Records and Information Management (RIM) becomes more critical in the context of the global recession, now is a good time to purge old documents. Take the opportunity to look at your current organisation strategy and improve your sorting, shredding and maintenance practices.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about document shredding and how to get more organised in the office!

Why you need a document purge

Every year, your business amasses hundreds of documents, ranging from notes and memos to financial records and invoices. All of these documents add up over time, and they can lead to some serious clutter when left unchecked.

Document shredding is the process of collecting, sorting and disposing of any leftover paper waste from the previous year or previous months. Doing this regularly can help your business in numerous ways.

Free up more space

Your desk and drawers should never be overwhelmed by paperwork. Stacks of documents lead to more stress, less productivity and can even cause you to overlook important details.

Paper shredding helps your business declutter and freshen up. It’s an amazing feeling to open your folders and see everything organised.

A decluttered workspace can leave everyone feeling more energised and inspired at the office. Large amounts of paperwork are one of the most common sources of office clutter.

Tackling the mountain of documents during the year can be impractical, but the new year gives you the perfect opportunity to sort through the mess and shred what you no longer need.

Improve your filing system

Your business’s filing system should be personalised to suit your needs. This could be alphabetising, color-coding or categorising documents based on type, client or service.

When you undergo a document purge, you get to identify places you’ve fallen behind in organisation. This allows you to make bigger improvements that will carry you through the entire year.

Make sure that you also fill your employees in about any changes you’d like to make going forward. You can even ask them where they struggle with paperwork, then come up with solutions as a team.

Make the workplace less stressful

If you have a room filled with unsorted documents or massive piles of paperwork, just stepping into the space can make you feel overwhelmed.

The important question to ask is, “What do we need from our workspace?” This can be a personal question, as well as one you send out in an email or post during a team meeting.

Less stress means fewer errors, greater efficiency and a more positive attitude that’s contagious among everyone. The temporary hassle of gathering all your documents for shredding is more than worth the positive impact it has on your business.

Lower risk of security breaches

Identity theft, hacking and data leaks are all risks you face when your office has too much paperwork. Unused, forgotten or discarded documents may contain sensitive financial information or clients’ personal details.

Even a small amount of data can be enough for someone to cause havoc. For this reason, a regular document purge should become part of your ongoing risk management strategy.

Avoid breaking compliance regulations

Organisations have to follow laws and regulations about document retention to avoid compliance violations. Some files must be kept for years at a stretch, but you should discard others after a certain timeframe.

Review your current document retention policy. If you don’t have one, this should be boosted to the top of your to-do list. Building an information management strategy will protect your business, your vendors and your clients.

How to organise your documents

Digital is the best way to create new files, but that doesn’t mean your office won’t generate paper at all. When you’re facing a large quantity of documents to sort and shred, here is the best way to go about it.

Gather everything in one place

Before you begin to organise anything, you need to have all of your files in one central location. If you run a larger business, have all departments undertake the process at the same time.

Make sure you get everything from printed documents to receipts, tax files, financial reports, bank statements, ledgers, marketing calendars and human resource documents.

Once you have everything in one place, you can start to break it down into manageable categories.

Separate the documents you need to keep

There are some essential documents you should always have in your office. While you may think throwing away something as soon as you’re done with it is a good idea, that is not always the case.

In many instances, having records of past events can help protect your business. In the event of a lawsuit, tax audit or financial dispute, detailed documentation can spare you from severe penalties or consequences.

To keep:
  • Tax returns for the last 7 years and all their supporting paperwork
  • Employee termination files for the last 7 years and 10 if an injury took place
  • Employee tax records for the last 4 to 7 years
  • Your deed, lease, contracts and documents relating to ongoing work

Once you’ve gotten all the essential files safely put away, you can take your document organisation a step further with apps. For example, did you know that there are mobile receipt apps for business that let you snap a picture of a receipt and store it digitally?

No matter what platform you choose, using software to keep track of financial data is a good idea. It will help you stay more organised going forward, and it’s easier to share your files with others. This can reduce reporting errors, financial oversights and miscalculations that harm your bottom line.

Make folders for the new documents

In addition to removing old files, you also need an easy way to sort and manage new documents. Remove any old labels from prior years, unless they are for older files you have to keep.

Make sure your new folders have dividers and tabs that are clearly labelled. This will make it easier for you to move through any existing paperwork as well.

Find a reputable shredding company

The best way to ensure your documents are destroyed in a compliant manner is to hire a reputable shredding company. Make sure that the company you choose has NAID AAA Certification, and offers a certification of destruction once your documents have been shredded. After completing an initial purge you may want to consider a recurring shred service. Recurring shred services utilise convenient onsite shred consoles that save your business time, space, money and even your back from moving all your heavy boxes around.

Enjoy the new view

Your document shredding will be much easier the second time around. As you continue to improve your current document organisation, you’ll find that next year’s paper waste is much lower.

Continuing to reduce your own document waste can also help cut overhead costs and reduce spending. Knowing how to safely manage, maintain and eventually dispose of data can also give your employees and clients peace of mind.

Reach out to Iron Mountain for even more help shredding, organising and managing your business’s most important data!