The instant change to virtual workplaces, accompanying the pandemic’s early days, left many abandoned, full filing cabinets. As the “stay home” order turned from months and eventually years, people discovered other paper-free ways of working. Methods to electronically sign documents became the norm. Often business cases for these products got expedited and prioritized.
After a slow, start and stop return to the office, people started working in person again. Often the new work arrangement was hybrid, some combination of in-person days and virtual. Many people stopped relying on paper and printouts, mostly because they had learned to work a different way out of necessity. The pandemic was a giant and instant disrupter. It impacted habits and changed them, seemingly overnight.
People returned to the offices, but the filing cabinets stuck around, unused. Relics of a former workplace, recent, but still wildly outdated. Encapsulated time bombs of a previous era, frozen in time. Work resumed in a new way, carried out electronically almost 100% of the time. And yet, the cabinets remained, an afterthought, a burden to sort through and deal with, fading into the background as part of scenery. Until the time arrives to clean them up. This is where the challenges begin.
Whenever this scenario arises, I find most people are resistant to sorting through the records properly to action them. Rather, most people would prefer to make the “mess” go away by either throwing everything in the shred bin, or placing it in a box to ship somewhere else. This way it can be “cleaned up” all while conveniently becoming somebody else’s problem to deal with later. I always liken this scenario to people moving.
When people move, I think we all have a high aspiration of only moving what we need. We don’t want to take junk with us. Yet, we somehow end up with boxes (bags, drawers, etc.) filled with things that we don’t really need and will “get to later.” This is the stuff that ends up piled up in garages, inaccessible shelves in closets, attics, etc. Basically, we always choose storage places where the stuff ends up with damage such as mold, vermin, drying out, etc. This may be subconsciously intentional, but it makes the future decision easier.
However, with records the risk is different. Taking the time to clean them up right the first time is the best strategy to avoid future problems.