As much as we all want to work in paperless offices it still seems like something that is way way into the future. Yes, I think most of us have cut down a whole bunch on our paper consumption, however, we still have to print things off, get people to sign things and work with paper documents a lot. The reality is that paper is going to be around for a little while longer. A few weeks ago I wrote another post on dealing with electronic paperwork and today I thought it would be good to have a little refresher on how dealing with confidential paperwork. Here are my top ten tips.

Top ten tips on dealing with confidential paperwork

  1. Firstly, ask yourself ‘does this need to be printed?’ In a lot of cases it is easier to deal with confidential work if it is kept in an electronic format rather than as a piece of paper on your desk that can be picked up and moved around.
  2. Sometimes you will have to make a hard copy of the information and in these circumstances make sure the paperwork is not left on your desk unless you are there. Like your computer screen lock the documents away even if you move from your desk for a few moments.
  3. If you do not have your own printer, then again, I suggest you speak to your manager about this. You should have a confidential printer that only you have access to. If your office doesn’t allow this you can still print confidential material to a shared printer by selecting the ‘secured printing’ method on your printer settings. This delays the printing until you physically go to the printer and enter a password.
  4. When you are completely finished with the documents, shred everything or put it in  a confidential paperwork bin. It isn’t worth holding on to the material just in case you need to use it again.
  5. Do not label your paperwork with a confidential stamp or watermark. I think if people see this word, it tends to make them want to look even more… it is human nature, so don’t encourage their curiosity.
  6. You should, however, add a cover note so that people can not read the document without picking it up and turning the first page.
  7. If you are printing confidential documents that need to be circulated to other members of staff make sure you number each copy (1 of 20, 2 of 20 etc.) and keep a note of who has which copy. This makes it much easier for you to track the documents and collect them after they have been read and discussed. You should also ask the recipient of the document to sign a register so that you have proof of receipt in case any documents go missing.
  8. If you are transporting highly confidential documents make sure you use a trusted and reliable courier service. The last thing you want is for a confidential file left on the back seat of an Uber!
  9. Make sure you absolutely limit the access for your confidential documents. Think to yourself ‘who exactly needs to see this, and who doesn’t’. If you are not entirely sure double check with your Executive. The number one way to keep documents confidential is to limit access to the information.
  10. If the document is really top secret ask that all of those who need to read the documents, attend a meeting to read through and discuss the information. Again, you are limiting  access, you know the documents will only be available in that location and you can collect them after the meeting has finished and immediately shred the contents. This might be overkill for some confidential matters, but maybe not for others!

My final point would be to remain vigilant when it comes to dealing with confidential documents. I’ve had a few instances in my career where I’ve been absent-minded and colleagues have seen things on my desk that they shouldn’t see, luckily the information wasn’t particularly sensitive, but it made me realise people like to gossip and know things that their colleagues do not. You might think it is their fault for looking, and you are not to blame if they go out of their way to snoop, but it will also look like you can’t handle sensitive information and you might not be trusted again and as we know if we can’t be trusted it makes our jobs incredible hard to do.