March 30, 2023

Workplaces have changed. It’s time to refresh your data security policies. 

The office landscape has changed almost beyond recognition in recent years – and businesses need to adapt their data security policies in response. More than half of organisations now expect 50%+ of their workforce to be hybrid – and from the employee side, 84% of working adults say they intend to work both from home and their place of work

Getting the right processes in place to maintain the security and integrity of sensitive data has always been challenging but the shift towards remote and hybrid working can make it a more difficult.  With UK office workers now attending the workplace on an average of just 1.5 days a week, greater awareness is needed of the security risks associated with hybrid work habits as well as the need to adjust on-site security policies to help mitigate the risk of confidential information getting into the wrong hands. 

A crucial part of this, is making sure that workspaces are decluttered and desks are clear. An untidy, unorganised office can be detrimental to an organisation’s security. On the flip side, a regular, thorough decluttering can be beneficial for data safety, regulatory compliance, sustainability and even productivity

Here are three great reasons why it’s time to review and possibly refresh, your data security policies in the office: 


1. Keeping customer and employee data safe

It’s always been true that a cluttered office creates a security risk. Stockpiling physical and digital data on devices such as hard drives, CDs and USBs, leaves confidential information vulnerable to data theft. But with employees regularly switching between different working environments, sensitive documents are even more vulnerable.  

With new workplace habits now everyday office life, it’s essential that confidential material is removed from desks or placed into locked consoles for shredding or secure destruction. We should all also securely dispose of post it notes, lock away removable media or notebooks and double-check that desks are clear at the end of every day. 

Regardless of whether you’re commuting from office to home, from the Kitchen to your living room or using a hot-desk rather than being assigned an individual space, following a clean desk policy can help protect the confidential information you may be handling as part of your day-to-day role.  

Having the right policies in place can be key to protecting your workplace against theft, fraud or visual hacking. With different people in different areas of the office on different days of the week, it’s going to be a key security consideration. 

2. Ensuring regulatory compliance  

The introduction of GDPR has raised the game in data protection across Europe with strict data security regulations. At the same time, remote and hybrid working could be making information security more difficult for companies to manage if personal data is now being handled in different places. Eitherway, the law applies equally to businesses of all sizes and with limited exceptions.  

How does decluttering your workspace help keep your business compliant with GDPR and other data security requirements? Data security. This is a principal reason to adopt and enforce a clean desk policy. When left on display, sensitive and personal data can be accessed by visitors, contractors and colleagues.  

A well-organised office and clear desk policy can also help businesses meet international standards, such as ISO 27001, which recognises information security management. The standard requires physical documents to be “properly” disposed of – for example by using a shredder – when no longer needed. 

3. Improving sustainability in waste management 

Alongside the security and compliance concerns that businesses face every day, pressure is mounting for businesses to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions on our national journey to net zero. When security is a paramount concern, methods for disposal and destruction of paper files can incorrectly, disregard sustainability.  

A survey commissioned by Shred-it in the UK also found that much-needed workplace green initiatives including paper recycling, may not be fully realised when people work from home. Nearly one in five (18 per cent) of people said they don’t recycle shredded work documents when at home and/or just put documents in the rubbish bin - exposing the data to potentially greater security risks.   

By encouraging the safe passage of paper from home back to the office or organising home pick-ups with an information security provider that takes its environmental responsibilities seriously, business can benefit from a secure shredding and recycling service. So each time you and your employees declutter the workplace, you can rest assured that waste will be disposed of in a way that aligns with your broader sustainability strategy. 

An Environmental Certificate will also help demonstrate how the partnership is having an impact on CO2 emissions that goes some way in helping to safeguarded our planet.  

How to achieve a secure office Shred-it all policy 

As modes of working evolve and hybrid working becomes commonplace, regularly refreshing data security policies becomes more important – and more challenging. Businesses are under increasing pressure to comply with more stringent information security requirements and environmental targets.  

The benefits and importance of office decluttering and desk clearing policies helps remove the need for employees to decide what is or isn’t confidential and decreases the risk of human error – over 40% of data breaches occur due to employee negligence

Although it may seem an overwhelming task at first, implementing a shred-it all workplace policy does not have to be time or cost consuming. In fact, our four-week declutter challenge provides some simple steps for businesses to get started. 

So what should the policy look like? A policy should include filing and securely disposing and recycling documents that you no longer need.  

A clean desk policy should also make sure that employees only keep the documents they need for their workday at their desk; protecting them when they move away from their work, and at the end of the day, securely store them away or dispose of them in a lockable shredding container ready for collection. This is even more important in a hybrid working world, as in some cases an employee may not return to their desk for another week. 

As part of a revised data security policy, it is also useful to consider outsourcing some of the process. For disposing of confidential documents and hard drives containing digital files, working with a specialist information security service provider such as Shred-it can be far more time, cost and environmentally effective. 

At Shred-it, we understand the challenges facing businesses. We ensure complete data security through a secure six-step process that begins with trained and background-checked staff collecting documents in tamper-proof containers.  

Documents are then taken through a three-point secure handling chain in GPS-tracked vehicles, before being destroyed in cross-cutting shredders. A Certificate of Destruction is provided each time, providing our customers with proof that GDPR obligations are being met. When it comes to compliance, we can also help with implementing robust, compliant workplace policies that directly answer the requirements of relevant laws and regulations.  

And for sustainability, our Secure Information Destruction Service recycles 100% of securely shredded paper. All shredded paper is baled and recycled, to be used in the manufacture of high-demand items. 

Of course, one of the best ways businesses can prevent information security risks from materialising is to regularly keep offices tidy and organised and stop clutter from building up in the first place. That is why Shred-it makes it easy to arrange shredding services to fit with any decluttering schedule – with both on-site shredding and pick-up available. An ad-hoc service is also available for when storage space suddenly becomes an issue. 

At Shred-it, we know information security is something no business should compromise on. Talk to us today about how we can help protect your documents, hard drives and other sensitive files following an office declutter.