One thing to consider when setting up your filing system is how you are going to treat active versus historical files.
Essentially, active files are ones you still need to have regular access to while historical files are those which you are unlikely need to access to, but which need to be kept for legal purposes.
When you start thinking about active files, your main consideration is how often you need to access those files.
There are no clear cut guidelines as to which files to keep close to you and which ones can be filed further away. What you need to keep handy will depend on the job you do and the files you need to access frequently.
Once files pass the time when they are used for reference, you have to decide if those files will be purged or archived. Certain files, like financial and legal files, need to be retained for a minimum amount of time before they are purged. Other files can be purged at any time. I found a pretty good retention schedule for the files you need to keep and how long you should keep them. Your company may have a retention schedule that they use. Always be sure and check, because you should always keep files at a minimum of what is called for by your corporate retention policy. If your company doesn’t have a file retention policy, you should look into suggesting one for adoption.
Once files pass the point of being active, you should either purge them or archive them, depending on your needs and company policy. Any records that are confidential or contain confidential information (such as payroll files and any information such as social security numbers or credit card information) should be securely shredded. Many companies are available who are bonded and can provide a certificate of destruction of this information.
Files that should be archived should be boxed and sent to wherever you archive your files. Be sure to mark the contents clearly on all sides of the box, and include a list of all files in the box for easy reference. You’ll want to keep that list for yourself, as well, so you can easily find an archived file if you need it.
Next Post: Setting Up Your Files.