Regardless of the nature of your business, the documents that you keep need to be managed effectively to avoid damage or loss. Safe and secure storage often falls to the bottom of the priority list, cast off as ‘unnecessary admin’, overtaken by other day-to-day tasks.
However, if you ever need to retrieve an important record which has been stashed away for a while, it will take a lot more admin time to track it down if it has not been stored properly. To avoid this situation, here are five tactics you should adopt to improve the way you manage your paperwork.
1. Create A Retention Schedule
The retention of files is not just there as a guide – the most key pieces of paper in your business cannot simply be thrown away because you don’t see a use for them currently. That invoice from three years ago may no longer seem relevant, but invoices should be kept for six years after receiving them. If you destroy them before the minimum retention time is up, you could be in breach of disclosure law. Equally, if you keep them for too long, you could be in breach of data privacy laws.
To avoid these issues, you need to consider all the different types of papers and records that are used in your business (including emails) and thoroughly research the retention required for each type. There are plenty of resources online that break down retention by industry and will provide you with this information.
2. Dispose Of Documents No Longer Required
Taking into account your new retention schedule, any data that is no longer needed will have to be disposed of appropriately. This data is likely to contain sensitive information and so it needs to be shredded to eradicate any chance of it being replicated. This may seem an unlikely occurrence, but it is always better to be safe than sorry.
3. Store Your Archives
Your remaining physical manuscripts will need to be stored safely. In order to avoid the likelihood of any loss or damage to files, it is always best to store them in one location. This way it is easier for you and your staff to know where to look. Whether this is an office or storage room, make sure the area is dry to avoid any damp issues, and ensure you can also lock and monitor the room.
It is also important to make sure your papers are being stored in a sensible manner. Use strong boxes and folders to keep them safe and reduce the chance of damage. Arranging them in order of how often they may need retrieving will save a lot of time and will keep your archives intact. Items needed on a regular basis should be the easiest to obtain. If you choose to store work digitally, a secure network is absolutely vital. Organise your documents into descriptive folders and set up password protection and admin allowances accordingly.
4. Train Your Staff
When implementing a new way of doing things it is key to keep your staff informed and fully trained with regards to the changes. Take the time to create a guide that details the system, and encourage communication and input so that they not only feel involved, but can assist in ironing out the creases. By keeping your employees up-to-date, you can be assured that the system will stick. Furthermore, the paperwork will not begin to pile up again because the retention schedule will be understood across the organisation.
5. Consider Outsourcing
If your business is generating more filing than you can keep up with or can be stored on site, perhaps you should consider off-site storage. Document storage experts will be able to archive your papers in a purposely designed location using the most up-to-date archiving systems. If you need to retrieve a particular record, it can be delivered to you, which will save you valuable time. If you’re using an off-site company, always verify with them their policy on delivery times.
These are a selection of the methods you can use to improve the way you store the records that are most important to your organisation. By adopting these tactics, your business will save valuable time and resources in the long run when archiving or retrieving documents.