Research published last week revealed that European fines for breaches of data protection have hit £100 million. The data, published by DLA Piper, found that the UK was the third biggest offender behind the Netherlands and Germany, with over 22,000 data breaches being recorded in the UK since GDPR legislation came into effect in May 2018.
These figures paint a worrying picture and illustrate a real imperative for business leaders across the UK to get their workplace in order, ensuring company-wide compliance with data security in order to avoid the risks of potentially disastrous data breaches.
Decluttering has become a huge movement of late, led in part to the recent TV show featuring Japanese organising consultant Marie Kondo. And, while it may seem more relevant to organising the home, businesses – and in particular financial services organisations – would do well to take on board the principles of decluttering, reviewing processes and introducing best practices to ensure compliance with data protection regulations.
Furthermore, with recent data from the ONS revealing that UK productivity grew only marginally in the third quarter of 2019, the onus is on business leaders to introduce new measures to enable a happy, healthy and efficient workforce and thus increase productivity across the UK.
Take paper documentation. The average office worker uses a staggering 10,000 sheets of paper per year – many of which are left lying around in the office and not stored away or destroyed properly after use. From contracts and invoices, to financial statements and CVs, the likelihood of paper records left lying around that contain sensitive information is high.
Last year we commissioned new research to unveil the attitudes of office workers in the UK to handling sensitive information. The survey found that over 14% of office workers admitted to having left sensitive information lying on their desk. Furthermore, over a third of respondents admitted they were unlikely to dispose of sensitive information by shredding paperwork, and 9% admitted to having put people’s CVs into the bin or recycling rather than shredding them.
The research also revealed the potential consequences of mishandling sensitive information in the workplace. According to the data, 38% of office workers admitted to having had to pay towards some or all of the cost of the lost information, 55% had lost their company money or customers, while more than 23% admitted to having lost their job as a result of mishandling sensitive company information.
These findings show the importance of ensuring your workforce both understands and fully complies with data protection regulations, not only to prevent their company losing money or customers, but to protect their own position within the company.
It’s important to remember that data protection regulations apply to digital records as well as paper documentation.
The rise of the digital economy, coupled with an increasingly flexible workforce globally, has resulted in more and more documents being saved on laptops and handheld devices, easily accessible for remote workers.
With this movement however has come a new wave of security concerns, from using unsecured wireless networks in cafes, to leaving laptops and mobile phones on trains or in stations unattended.
Never has it been more important for workers to install anti-virus firewall software, while regularly updating usernames and passwords to reduce the risks of data theft. It is also worth considering a specialist hard drive destruction service for any unwanted USBs or other hardware.
With a clear business imperative for decluttering, how can business leaders ensure their workforce are more organised and GDPR-compliant in 2020?
Clean desk policy
By definition, a clean desk policy specifies how employees should leave their working space when they aren’t there. Desks should be cleared of all papers, particularly those containing sensitive information such as personal details, account numbers and commercially-sensitive data. The policy should also extend to sensitive information on computers.
Blitz as a team
At least once a year, allocate a day for all the office staff to blitz their paperwork, data files and emails to cull any surplus. This is a great initiative to do early in the year or when you’ve just passed another financial year-end as you can potentially bin another historical year’s worth of documentation. Key thing is to ensure the secure destruction of any unwanted paperwork in order to protect sensitive information.
Confront your inbox
Allow time for colleagues to tackle their inbox backlog, implementing Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero guidelines when they receive an email by deciding to either:
Delete: just get rid of it
Delegate: assign someone else to deal with it
Respond: if it takes just a few minutes, do it right now
Defer: put it on a to-do list or file it in a ‘to-action’ subfolder to deal with it later
Do it: handle whatever the email actually needs you to do
Unsubscribe from any sources that aren’t adding value or you are realistically never going to make the time to read.
Designate specific times to check your email so you can concentrate on specific tasks between those checks. The constant interruption of new emails wreaks havoc with your focus and extends the amount of time required to complete any task.
Everything in its place
Identify a logical home for all the items you want or need in your work environment, ensuring its accessible if it’s frequently used. Listen closely to those who are in the environment the most so you can understand what will work best day-to-day.
Whether its offsite archiving, routinely accessed filing or the contents of the stationery cupboard, using clear labels so anyone can find and follow the systems will save time and energy.
Create clear work zones
Allow space for colleagues to interact away from their desks, over a water cooler or while making a cup of tea. Introduce small spaces to break away to have more intimate and focused conversations if the workplace is open plan.
Check your employees’ workstation set-up to ensure their posture and energy levels can be best supported. If staff use laptops, include some poser tables for them to move to if they need to stand and work.
Do not disturb signs
If you have an open-plan office space, issue each desk with flags or some visual indicator that when it’s up, tells their colleagues they are in focus time and should not be disturbed unless urgent.
Ian Osborne, VP UK & Ireland, Shred-it