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How To Create A Home Personnel Folder — And Why Bother

How To Create A Home Personnel Folder — And Why Bother

    Do you keep copies of your medical records? What about your tax returns? Most people do, because the information in those documents is important enough that it doesn’t matter whether your doctor or the IRS has a copy — you want to have a copy, too. The same goes for a wide variety of employment documents that many people keep at the office, if they keep them at all. But there are plenty of arguments against keeping your personnel information at work. Instead, it’s worth considering keeping copies at home and creating a home personnel folder.

    There are plenty of reasons you may need to check your copies of your employment information even when you aren’t at work: if you’re out with the flu, that memo on sick leave isn’t going to do you much good in your office. The same goes if you get a better job offer and you want to check your current contract. And if the worst happens and you lose your job, you may not be able to get copies of all the files left in your desk.

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    Documents That Belong In Your Home Personnel Folder

    Employment Contracts: While not all employers require written contracts, many do. They can take the form of formal offers of employment, letters of agreement or other documents — but no matter what form it takes, you should have a copy at home. While many people feel comfortable shredding their contracts as soon as their employment ends, it’s worth keeping your contract around for quite a bit longer. At the minimum, you should keep a contract through the expiration of any clauses (i.e. non-compete clauses), although it’s reasonable in most cases to keep copies of your contracts indefinitely.

    Benefits: From your parking space to your dental insurance, your benefits package is full of important information. As your benefits technically make up a portion of your compensation, it’s worthwhile to keep a copy on hand — and make sure that you’re taking full advantage of what your employer offers you. Furthermore, because your benefits can affect your home life — health insurance, anyone? — being able to consult that information at home can be crucial.

    Performance Reviews: In theory, performance reviews are your employer’s way of telling you where you’re doing a good job and where you can improve. In reality, most companies treat performance reviews as an easy way to determine promotions and raises. Keeping track of such information can help you find an opportunity or two with your employer.

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    Payroll Records: If things go south at your company and you find yourself in a position to file for unemployment insurance, you’re likely to be asked for certain payroll records. If there’s a problem processing your claim, you could be asked for several years worth of documentation. They’ll also want at least some of your tax records — in the U.S., most states require at least a copy of your W-2 form. The requirements may differ dramatically in other countries.

    Updates: All those memos and updates that get passed around the office regarding your health insurance, reporting times and anything else your supervisor or human resources manager comes up with seem like great wastepaper liner. But a surprising number of them are worth keeping, at least in the short term. It requires discretion to determine which updates are worth filling, but generally those affecting either your compensation or your responsibilities are worth keeping.

    Job Description: Your job description may change during your time with your employer, but it’s important to keep a copy of each version. It’s not so that you can argue against doing a task just because it’s not in your job description — but if you’re routinely taking care of tasks above your pay grade, bringing a copy of your job description to your supervisor might help you get a raise. If possible, it’s worthwhile to keep a copy of your resume at the time you receive each job description so that you can show your progression in terms of skills and experience.

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    Documentation of Problems: There are problems in every office situation, and some of them may require documentation. If, for instance, a co-worker is behaving inappropriately, you may feel the need to keep a record of the issue. Keep a copy of that record at home — in some cases, it might be worthwhile to keep the only copy at home. Such records can actually cause problems if they’re found laying around the office.

    Your Actual Personnel Record: In most places, you have a legal right to take a look at your personnel record any time you care to march down to the Human Resources department. You might consider asking to do just that — frame your question in a way that won’t lead those HR folks to file you in the back of the drawer when you’re done, though.

    Keeping Track Of All The Paperwork

    All these records can add up to a nice stack of paper. Ideally, you’ll go out and buy a bunch of folders and a filing cabinet — but that may not be a realistic option. Instead, any neat organization system that allows you to easily access any papers that you’re after works just fine. Tabbed folders and a box may be the best solution for you (as long as you store it somewhere dry).

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    You’ll want to hang on to most of this paperwork for a while. If there’s a problem with your employer (or former employer), you might be asked to provide documentation reaching back several years. If you haven’t run into any problems after four years, you’re generally considered to be in the clear. That’s the same length of time your employer is required to keep documentation.

    If you have any other suggestions for documents that need to go in a home personnel folder, please share them in the comments.

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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder That Works)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system”.

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    The power of habit

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being six hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The wonderful thing about triggers (reminders)

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to make a reminder works for you

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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