19/06/2014 07:14 BST | Updated 18/08/2014 06:59 BST

Helping Yourself to Company Information: Can You Afford the Risk?

Picture the scene: after several years of loyal service, you've finally decided the time has come to move on and explore new horizons with a new employer. As you prepare to shut down your PC, say goodbye to your colleagues and walk out the office door for the last time, you begin to look forward to the new adventures that lie ahead. Surely there wouldn't be any harm in forwarding a few presentations you had worked on; after all, these could well help you in your new role. Or would there?

Although we would never dream of taking a laptop or chair upon leaving a job, the same cannot be said for information. An Iron Mountain study from 2012 revealed that two thirds of European office workers admit they had taken or would take information they had been involved in creating when they left a job.

More recent research from Iron Mountain and PwC has shown that, despite the fact that information is walking out the door when employees leave, employers are not concerned. In fact, 87 per cent do not think their employees take information when they leave. This is because 81 per cent feel confident they have robust measures in place - such as blocking the individual's access to company IT upon departure and ensuring information can't be copied to USB - to prevent it. However often these measures are too little too late and the damage is already done.

While you may think no harm could come of this seemingly innocent act, it could in fact see you facing serious consequences. From a business perspective, the risk it poses to your employer is equally worrying - you just need to think about the risk of sensitive company secrets getting into the hands of a competitor. It's in the best interest of both parties to avoid this situation and the subsequent far-reaching consequences.

So - if this sounds familiar, you may now be concerned that you could be facing retribution from either current or past employers. So what should your employer be doing differently to prevent this from happening?

  • It is not just about having an impressive process in place - it's about making sure that it achieves its purpose. Employers must communicate processes (then monitor to check they're followed) to employees clearly regardless of whether it is someone who has just joined the business or someone who is moving on to pastures new.
  • Employers should ensure that all employees understand what constitutes confidential information and what the legal and/or reputational implications of removing that data might be.
  • It ultimately comes down to your employer building a culture of accountability, respect and trust for information - both on paper and digital - underpinned by strong security safeguards