Handling confidential information is at the heart of being a PA and it’s paramount to offer confidentiality, discretion and judgement when doing so.
To retain your manager’s confidence you have to be trustworthy and always discrete. However, in today’s world of modern technology and open plan offices it is certainly a challenge, especially when you have close working relationships with colleagues who want to know your secrets and who you might know private and sensitive information about.
To make your life easier, here are our top tips on how to deal with confidential information:
Always be aware - there is never a time when you can’t remain vigilant when dealing with confidential information. You will lose trust very quickly if you let anything slip, even by accident. You need to constantly be aware what is on your screen, desk and the printer.
Consider your location - if you work in an open plan office, review what people can see from all angles. If you find it an issue ask for your desk to be moved or at the very least, invest in a privacy screen that can restrict what people can see. It is also important to consider where the printer is located as if it is a distance from your desk someone could have seen any confidential documents you print before you get there. If possible ask for a printer on your desk or utilise secure printing which ensures nothing is printed until you are at the printer and have entered a password.
Adopt safe habits - it really does take effort to remain alert, so start as you mean to go on and get into the habit of being heedful.
Lock your computer when not at your desk, even if for a brief period.
Set settings to allow password protect screensavers.
Open documents in a minimised window if the content could contain confidential information.
Mark all communication confidential and set this up as an option in your email settings.
Encrypt or password protect any attached documents and plan for how you will distribute the password.
Manage sent documents and move any sensitive information into a secure location.
Manage temporary file storage where all documents are saved.
Only print when absolutely necessary.
Every week check which documents can be shredded.
Always produce and print documents with a cover note which requires turning the page to see the content.
If any information is totally confidential ask people to review a hard copy with you present and don’t leave a hard copy behind.
Ensure that all devices where you can access your emails are password protected.
Change your password regularly and only share with your direct manager.
Do not use social media apps, such as WhatsApp, to communicate any confidential information with your manager.
Manage shared access information stored on the cloud or shared documents such as Google Docs well and always include password protection.