NEWS | Planning your return-to-work strategy? Here's why it must include confidential document destruction

Planning your return-to-work strategy? Here's why it must include confidential document destruction

April 30 2020 By Rob Fedder back-to-work, document destruction, identity theft, popi, compliance, rob fedder

As we move from level five to level four in the risk-adjusted national lockdown, many businesses will resume operations next week while others make preparations for when they can once again open their doors.

Although sanitising workplaces for employee safety and updating business policies, procedures and continuity plans are all critical aspects of any return-to-work strategy, it's imperative that this groundwork includes the handling and destruction of end-of-life confidential and sensitive work documents.

Why destroy documents properly?

The main drivers for document destruction are to avoid identity theft, to comply with relevant legislation and to reduce workplace clutter.

  • Identity theft

According to TransUnion, South Africa's largest credit bureau, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the world.

A person's identity can be stolen in several ways, from hacking into sites where online purchases have been made to simply stealing mail from postboxes or dustbins. Any document, printed or electronic, that contains personal information puts a person at risk of identity theft.

Companies that deal with personal or confidential information have a responsibility to protect this information. One way in which this can be done is to ensure that documents that contain sensitive information are properly destroyed.

  • Legislative compliance

Compliance with The Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPI) 2013 is mandatory for most companies in South Africa. The act was designed to protect people's personal information, and forces businesses to consider the way in which they capture, manage and store personal information.

  • Workplace clutter

Minimising paper-based clutter in the workplace is becoming increasingly important as companies look to reduce office space and improve the mental wellness of employees. Apart from the tangible costs, there are many intangible costs associated with clutter in the workplace, including time-wasting, additional stress and business reputation.

A substantial amount of time can be wasted in the absence of a formalised policy that determines what happens to confidential or sensitive documents.

In the Psychology Today article 'Why Mess Causes Stress: 8 Reasons, 8 Remedies', psychologist and author Sherrie Bourg Carter maintains that clutter in the workplace causes stress, and inhibits creativity and productivity.

You also run the risk of undermining or severely damaging your company reputation if end-of-life documents are not destroyed properly, and personal information is shared or used illegally.

How to tackle document destruction?

A sound understanding of national and industry-specific legislation, as well as how confidential customer and business information flows through companies, are essential to implementing an effective document destruction policy.

To prioritise document destruction in your business, follow these guidelines:

  1. Get to know The Protection of Personal Information Act (PoPI) 2013 and its impact on your specific business.
  2. Get to grips with how documents are used and flow through your business. Go as far as to detail the life cycle of various documents, from origination right through to destruction.
  3. Devise a document destruction plan that details who is responsible for destruction, the frequency of destruction and where this will occur.

 Outsourcing your document destruction

Once you have familiarised yourself with the relevant legislative requirements and your business's unique document flow, it's not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the scale of the task of correctly destroying sensitive data.

 It's for this reason that many companies opt to outsource their document destruction. There are numerous benefits to outsourcing this critical function, including:

  • Accessing professionals with efficient processes that save time, money and human resources
  • Eliminating security risks and ensuring compliance
  • Accessing certified destruction certificates
  • Reducing clutter
  • Reducing a business's environmental footprint, as shredded documents are 100% recycled

Document destruction is often overlooked, but it should form an important part of your back-to-work strategy in order to comply with local legislation requirements, reduce clutter and better protect your workplace.

About Rob Fedder

Rob is the Managing Director of Tidy Files and Cleardata, which are Metrofile Group companies. He has been involved in the paper and electronic document management industry since 2006 and is passionate about helping businesses navigate the complex document management landscape.

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