Individuals and organizations have both been forced to adjust to the “new normal” of social distancing, remote working, and travel restrictions. Our lives away from everyone, or at least 6 feet apart, has created challenges to adapt to different social and work methods like using Skype, Zoom and other video conferencing methods.
Since we cannot go to the “office” every day, our new office is the dining room table, a den, or a corner of the guest bedroom. In a world that is already focusing more on digital and technological advances, this crisis may push organizations to reevaluate their digital and physical footprints. Distance and communication creates both challenges and opportunities to adjust or create business practices which are more secure and efficient, helping the organization continue to achieve its strategic goals.
How can an organization adapt to better manage information and data with the current shift in organizational structure?
If your organization is already primarily using digital documents, now is an opportune time to review the Records Management program and evaluate the digital footprint and controls. However, if your organization is still reliant on physical or “hard copy” documents in business processes, moving to a remote workforce will be challenging and require extra precautions and strategies be implemented to transition to digitized and digital workflows and protect employees and customers.
If a robust Records Management program is not instituted for sharing and tracking in your organization, now is the time to establishing a robust framework to control your confidential information.
A simple place to begin is to establish a collection of folders on the organizations shared network drive, with open access to all. These folders will serve as a drop off location for staff to “drop” their documents. From there, the Records Manager can review and direct the documents to their appropriate final location based on the approved retention schedule.
Managing digital data remotely is challenging if the shared drives and servers have restricted access. Hard wiring your technology to the router will provide a stronger signal and may improve your ability to access shared drives. Generally, all must obtain permission from the data manager to access remotely servers in question. Readdressing access abilities could bring forth changes to data permissions with assistance from the Technical Support/help desk.
Another option of digital data management is the use of cloud storage for remotely created documentation. Use of cloud storage for low-cost, long-term storage that’s efficient, easy to use, and requires no hardware. Documents are stored in one, organized location until ready for distribution. It is essential you verify that any controls on access and protection of material stored on the Cloud is compliant with legal and contractual requirements.
Make sure whatever digital data management option you select and a clearly outlined organizational structure which is easy for users to navigate. Many organizations already managing their documents either in shared folders or on the cloud underestimate the importance of this step and after several months have a cluster of unorganized documents that leaves people making up their own structure and leaving a mess of documents. Ensuring that documents are "tagged" with useful information (metadata) helps improve the discoverability and searchability of your records.
In deploying your Records Management plan, it's important to engage users in company-wide communications and supplement that with easy-to-follow directions and access to ongoing assistance to improve adoption of your revised practices. It is essential that everyone understand the organizational structure from the start in order to see the success of the new system.
Security Measures for New Data Management Systems
The current environment may also force an organization to reassess its security measures for digital platforms. Because more employees are working from home, security steps during this time may prove a bit different. Access to secure networks may need to be extended to individuals who were previously able to hard wire in at the office. It’s important to still follow company policy and best practices which should include a brief training on safety measures for employees whether they are new to working at home or seasoned employees.
The use of encryption and digital signatures are easy ways to make sure digital data is more secure, even with more people accessing it from different locations.
Security Managers can also track who is accessing what information, protecting company information and ensuring accountability.
Advising employees to establish in-home security near their workspace will also help produce a more secure location. Employees should keep their laptop and other work materials away from children or roommates with passwords kept in a private location. They should set up their work area away from others. If there is confidential information, they should follow applicable protocols.
Managing physical documents during challenging times require everyone to be more diligent.. The easiest and safest solution is to digitize or scan documents into your technology and email it via an attachment or store it to a shared folder for management to review.
If hard copy documentation is required, maintain a specific folder to mail to the manager or supervisor weekly for approval and signature. When mailing a collection of documents, provide a document index which will identify the document by name or tracking number.
The index includes:
- Name of document
- Date of creation
- Date emailed
Maintain the index during the challenging times and incorporate into the physical tracking within the organization.
Although the USPS is following CDC recommendations, physical precautions and best practices should be applied with documents and at home during this time. Precautions include washing or disinfecting your hands after touching mail, which should be kept in the same place in the home until using disinfectant wipes to wipe down the envelope. Correspondence inside the envelope has already been untouched for around 4 days and should not pose a problem.
Figure 1 via fox17online.com.
To practice caution after opening, discard the envelope as soon as possible and wash or disinfect your hands after handling the mail. The use of disposable gloves is an approved method for opening and sorting mail.
See details of how long the virus can live on surfaces set out by the CDC & FDA in Figure 1 above.
Although the virus cannot pass through your hands, the virus can enter the body though touching your nose, mouth, or eyes. On average, we touch our face every around 23 times per hour! Use best practices like thoroughly washing your hands regularly and NOT touching your face as much as possible.
This coronavirus pandemic is creating a “new normal” for many individuals and organizations. Adapting work conditions and practices can create an opportunity for an organization to reevaluate their records management and documentation systems to establish more efficient and safer digital and physical footprints.
Managing your organizations information from home may prove a bit of a challenge, but with proper organizing and sanitizing methods, it is possible. Determine the logical approach to reducing your risk of contacting the virus via documentation, mail, and other objects coming into your home. Use the guide to determine how long the virus stays on surfaces and either leave it alone or wipe it down with a disinfectant cloth. (i.e., Clorox wipes™).