Having a Document Retention Schedule: 6 Reasons Why

This post about having a Document Retention Schedule comes from Kaci Polk, Vice President of Operations and Certified Information Governance Professional at Forrest Solutions.

Establishing a document retention schedule is imperative in today’s data-heavy work environment.  Retaining the right records increases business efficiency, security, and transparencyA retention schedule serves a vital role in any organization, particularly as companies adapt to the new normal, where many employees are working remotely.  As of May 5, 2020, 64% of employees are working remotely, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. That number’s likely higher, more than two months later, as the pandemic continues to increase across US states.

 What Is a Document Retention Schedule? 

A document retention schedule acts as the organization’s legal road map for retaining and destroying records. A document retention schedule is a policy that clearly defines what documents need to be maintained and for how long. A retention policy will include all types of documents and records that are created on behalf of the company as part of its business. In addition, a retention schedule helps to ensure that businesses are in compliance with state and federal laws. Retention schedules should outline exactly how long your company must retain documents. It tells you when and how to dispose of documents that are eligible to be destroyed, whether they are in digital or paper format. 

Here are six reasons why you should create and implement a document retention policy. 

1 – Reduce Clutter 

Too much clutter in the workplace can reduce productivity and increase employee stress. When you organize your information, you save what you need and destroy what is not useful to you. A document retention policy can help businesses reduce their onsite and offsite real estate footprints and costs. Likewise, the same policy can help reduce your digital footprint. 

2 – Increase Efficiency 

Some organizations still have no long term plan on how, where, or how long they should store their documents (paper or electronic). But over-retaining records or destroying them too soon can result in numerous legal issues. A document retention policy will detail how to organize documents for storage, retrieval, and record-keeping. This will make locating and retrieving records much easier. 

 3 – Capitalize on Cost Savings  

There are costs related to maintaining unnecessary records. Employees waste time and money looking for documents, and there are storage costs for office space, filing cabinets, hard drives, and cloud storage. If documents get destroyed at the wrong time, this can have significant financial repercussions on the business. 

4 – Adhere to Compliance Regulations 

Failure to comply with state and federal privacy laws by destroying or not maintaining records before the end of a required retention period can result in penalties. Also, you may need records to defend certain claims. Ultimately, your document retention policy should reflect all relevant compliance rules and other regulations. It’s a matter of strategizing now, in order to protect your company in the long term. 

5 – Manage and Access Control 

A number of laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), contain specific provisions for who may access information and how it may be used. Generally, information should be made available only on a need-to-know basis. When you outline a solid document policy, you’ll also be managing control over sensitive information. 

6 – Improve Security and Data Protection 

One of the most valuable components of any document retention schedule is destruction. A company should shred and delete any records containing confidential, personal, or financial information in the following scenarios. These are: when those documents become unnecessary, or when retention requirements expire.  Also, organizing your documents according to a schedule will help ensure that all sensitive material is stored securely, and out of public view. 

Document Retention Schedule for the New Normal 

COVID-19 has caused people to adapt to working from home and forcing organizations to find digital solutions to keep their operations running. This has included digitizing incoming mail, scanning filing cabinets and storing these documents in the cloud. As a result, document retention schedules will be more crucial than ever in a post-COVID-19 world. Knowing what to keep and when to destroy both your electronic and physical documents can help safeguard your business against risk.

Whatever your needs, from digital conversion to document retention policies, our team offers outsourced records management services, that suit your business.

For more information, check out this case study. Or, if you have any questions email the author of this post, Kaci Polk, at [email protected].

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