Any of you find yourself setting goals like, “After the new year, I’ll switch to this process,” or “By this time next year, our team will be 100 percent agile”? Considering all the myths around forming habits, there’s just no reason to wait around for arbitrary dates to get started on something that can benefit your team, especially when it comes to digital housekeeping. Spring who? This is a year-round affair.
There’s something about a fresh start—and throwing things away—that just feels good. Decluttering is en vogue these days, with Marie Kondo’s popular #KonMari method of decluttering the home inspiring scores of people to bring order to chaos in their personal lives. But the benefits of digital housekeeping can get thrown by the wayside, since it’s clutter we can’t always see.
We all know about Inbox Zero and see the humblebragging on social media when someone has achieved this elusive goal. It helps to have a clean inbox, sure, but there’s a lot more to digital decluttering. Tech stores information and files in droves. And, when it comes to employees’ work laptops, devices, and shared folders, “out of sight is out of mind” is the (very bad) tradition. But you can bet your employees have been hoarding nonsense files and digital tchotchkes that are making it hard to navigate or—worse—are gumming up the works.
Laptops and workstations
Your employees’ laptops and workstations are likely full of files they’ve never bothered to delete or store in a relevant folder. It’s step one, but it warrants saying: Tackle the downloads folder, the trash can, and the desktop first (insert “Did you clear your cache?” joke here). It’s likely your employees don’t even recognize these items, so you can dispatch or archive them pretty quickly. If you open a folder and the sheer volume of files you find inside freaks you out, just sort them by date and deal with them in batches.
Do you back up users’ desktop data? If not, they’re probably assuming you do, which could lead to some tension in the event of a hardware failure involving data loss. This is a good opportunity to create a better, clearer process and policy around how data on laptops and workstations is backed up.
If your employees use smartphones and tablets, you can bet they’re probably bursting with random, unnecessary files as well. Users may be hoarding lots of photos or videos, even duplicates, or screenshots as reminders of to-do items to follow up on. As Lifehacker notes, mobile devices may also be clogged with obsolete or unused apps that are worth cleaning out.
If you run a BYOD program, there may be a limit to the kinds of data and apps you can remove from an employee’s device—that depends on the type of BYOD policy you have in place. At the very least, you can help employees identify clutter to remove. If you spot an opportunity to create or update a policy to manage BYOD device data better in the future, that follow-up step might be worth pursuing.
When your employees travel, do they check out any special equipment—like a camera, a camcorder, or a digital voice recorder—for their trip? You’ll want to take a look under the hood and perform some digital housekeeping on any devices employees utilize for work. Not everyone bothers to clean up the data they’ve stored on checkout equipment before handing it back to the IT team. That can create some complications with regard to privacy when the same equipment gets checked out to another user.
Chances are you’ll find a bunch of files sitting on memory cards or flash drives that either need to be archived (if they’re work-related) or deleted altogether. If you don’t already have a process for archiving or wiping data that’s left on checkout devices, go ahead and add that item to your to-do list.
Shared workstations and folders
Let’s say your office has shared workstations for special projects that require photo or video editing software. Make sure not to overlook this tech, since multiple hands means multiple “systems” for dealing with files. If you’re running special software that stores data in certain folders, check those locations for anything that can be archived or organized. Digital housekeeping may be required to rid them of dusty, neglected data no one is using.
Shared folders are also a huge locus of digital clutter. If you offer work group folders for departments or teams at your business, it’s a good idea to have your colleagues go through them on a periodic basis and determine if all the data in those folders needs to stay. Copy machines and office printers may have their own shared folders where files get orphaned, too. If you have separate, remote-office file systems and other devices that may store data locally, add them to your checklist as well.
By clearing out old data on workstations, mobile devices, checkout equipment, and shared folders, you’ll help make your office more efficient and ease any friction your employees experience with this tech. Want to take your digital decluttering further? Teach them how to do it themselves, and look for relevant process improvements so this regularly takes place.