A quarter of UK employees have been told off about not emptying the dishwater, compared to just 14 per cent on poor handling of confidential data

Nearly 90 per cent (86 per cent) of UK office workers claim they are more likely to be told off for forgetting to do menial tasks, like emptying or loading the dishwater and keeping their workplace tidy, than complying with GDPR policies, according to a new report issued today.

The poll, conducted by Fellowes, assessed whether GDPR is being taken seriously by UK office workers since its introduction in April of this year.

The study found that only 14 per cent of workers have been given a ticking off about careless handling of confidential data, while 25 per cent claim office chores, like emptying or filling the dishwasher, has landed them in the hottest water.

The data, collected from over 1,000 UK office workers in July 2018, also reveals that many are more likely to be challenged about missing deadlines and being late (17 per cent) than ensuring they are compliant with GDPR.

Further data reveals workers are yet to get to grips with how confidential data should be handle according to the GDPR guidelines:

  • 54 per cent have seen personal or confidential data they shouldn’t have
  • 33 per cent of workers admit they have left confidential or personal data unattended
  • 45 per cent have sent a confidential email to the wrong person
  • 61 per cent have received an incorrect email from the wrong person
  • 19 per cent have left a USB pen lying around somewhere
  • 14 per cent have left confidential documents in public places

Darryl Brunt, Country Head UK & Ireland at Fellowes, said:

“It’s a worrying sign that companies in the UK are more concerned about office chores than GDPR, which could cost businesses millions of pounds. One in ten workers don’t know who is responsible for GDPR within their business, and the truth is, protecting confidential data is everyone’s responsibility. It’s also troubling to see that almost one in five workers haven’t been given a concrete policy for handling GDPR. This has to change, or businesses will pay the price.”

The Fellowes Keep It Confidential team decided to find out just how offices in London were handling sensitive information following the GDPR roll-out, and whether there is still confusion around the correct disposal of documents.

Research found a variety of documents displaying private details including business contracts, printed emails and handwritten notes. Worryingly, these documents displayed client information including names and addresses, financial details and even bank statements, as well as contracts detailing business agreements.

Key tips to ensuring data is secure in any organisation include:

  • Set up an audit team: By having a dedicated team within an organisation who understands what data you hold, you can ensure key data policies trickle down to employees in different areas of the business
  • Train and re-train staff on data protection: Make sure all your employees are fully up-to-date with data protection laws with a robust policy implemented
  • Shred any documents you don’t need: Ensure all employees have access to shredders so all confidential paper waste – from sales figures to CVs – are destroyed correctly
  • Add signs to common areas: Add signage to shared workspaces as well as frequent update emails to remote-workers highlighting GDPR risks
  • Don’t leave documents behind: Remember to check for any documents you might have left behind after working in public places including USB sticks






Rebecca joined the HRreview editorial team in January 2016. After graduating from the University of Sheffield Hallam in 2013 with a BA in English Literature, Rebecca has spent five years working in print and online journalism in Manchester and London. In the past she has been part of the editorial teams at Sleeper and Dezeen and has founded her own arts collective.