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Iron Moutain : “Paper chaos” leaves confidential paper documents on display as businesses lose the art of filing

October 2013 by Iron Mountain

Ahead of World Paper Free Day on 24th October, a study from storage and information management company Iron Mountain shows that one in ten office workers describe their workplace as “paper free”. Many others, however, suggest that their organisation is failing to manage its paper records securely, leaving sensitive and confidential information at risk of exposure. Close to half (45 per cent) of office workers across Europe have seen confidential employee or business records on display in their workplace, either left behind on photocopiers and printers, or left out on desks. Office workers are typically seeing documents relating to colleagues’ salary or bonus details (seen by 22 per cent), performance review or appraisal information (12 per cent), and company financial information (ten per cent).

Why are companies struggling to keep their paper under control and sensitive documents out of sight? Over half (57 per cent) of firms have no central paper archive, with nearly a quarter (22 per cent) admitting they have no rules or guidelines to govern how paper documents are managed. Instead, they leave it up to their employees to decide how or even whether to file information. Very few firms (eight per cent) have a designated data protection officer who communicates to the business what the paper filing system should look like. This role will soon be a requirement for firms across Europe should proposed new European data protection legislation be passed.

The study shows that while 43 per cent of employees describe their company’s approach to paper documents as well-ordered and under control, eight per cent describe their work environment as ‘paper chaos’, with paper piled up everywhere, making it difficult for staff to locate the documents they need. Somewhere between the two are the firms that allow employees the ‘paper freedom’ to assess their own needs and manage their paper accordingly. One in ten respondents claim they do not need to file paper documents because their workplace is paper free.

Respondents in IT were the most likely to call their office “paper-free” (17.5 per cent), with those in the legal team the least likely (6.5 per cent). The legal department is, however, the most likely to have a managed central archive (57 per cent). At 9.3 per cent, sales teams head up the ‘paper chaos’ group. “Even though many companies are committed to reducing their dependence on paper, most are still struggling to manage the growing volumes of information coming at them in all formats. For the majority, a paper-free office is unrealistic and unattainable. We would recommend that organisations work towards the achievable goal of becoming paper-light. Adopting a paper-light approach is about digitising the documents that will be needed frequently and getting the majority of the paper documents into off-site storage. It is an approach that saves time and office space. It cuts through the paper chaos, facilitating faster access to documents, helping employees to work smarter, and enabling businesses to provide a better service to their customers.”

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