Although paperwork is often cited as a task that is frequently put off, few will argue that dealing with sensitive documents is somewhere to acceptably cut corners, especially at work. However, a recent survey* by Quadient has shown that many UK office workers are not taking document security seriously enough – more than a quarter either sometimes or always throw sensitive documents into general waste at work, instead of shredding. 

It’s now two years on from the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and issues around storing and securing personal sensitive information remain firmly rooted to the top of the business agenda. In that time, we’ve seen many multi-million-pound fines levied against a range of violating organisations. On top of these easily quantified financial penalties, arguably an even more costly impact on organisations is the long-term damage to reputation. 

As a result, organisations should be taking the storage and secure destruction of data and documents as seriously as ever. Unfortunately, though, our recent survey into attitudes and behaviours regarding sensitive printed materials in UK offices shows that many workplaces could be exposed to serious risks – perhaps without knowing it.  

Our survey asked 1001 office workers around the country (excluding sole traders) about if and how they shred documents, as well as questions relating to formal policies around document destruction. There were many surprising findings, but one telling stat was that more than a quarter (26%) either routinely (7%) or sometimes (19%) throw sensitive documents straight into general waste instead of shredding them. What’s more, approaching half (43%) of the office workers surveyed, noted that their organisations either don’t have a policy on destroying sensitive documents or, if there is one, employees questioned were unaware of it.  

So, not only are some workers knowingly throwing sensitive paperwork into general waste, for some companies, this may not even officially constitute inappropriate behaviour. 

Of course, no company would argue that it is not a problem for employees to knowingly throw away sensitive documents that could have been destroyed, so there is clearly a significant disconnect between expectation and reality. It’s a reminder, though, that workplaces need to set, communicate and enforce policies around protecting and handling sensitive documents, while at the same time making it as simple and as easy as possible for employees to follow-through and destroy the papers they need to, rather than look for easier shortcuts. 

We have created an infographic detailing more of the survey findings – including some comparisons between sectors – which can be found here. 

If you’re concerned about document destruction in your workplace and would like to find out about our range of secure shredders, visit our page here. 

*Survey of 1,001 office workers in the UK (excluding sole traders) between 17.04.2020-21.04.2020 conducted by Censuswide. 


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