Filing and Storage

Filing and Storage Audits: A Hidden Opportunity

We have long maintained that the idea of a paperless office is a myth.  Whilst technological advances may have helped us to communicate in a different way, and without needing to be face to face, we still invariably reach for pen and paper to take notes or print off documents to make them easier to absorb.  For as long as this is the case there will be a need for some form of workplace storage, and consequently filing and storage audits.

However, with many offices standing empty since March, and the storage contained inside left locked away, unused and gathering dust, there is more evidence than ever of significant scope for reduction of paper and a move towards less paper-heavy processes.  Not only can this have an important impact on the environment [see our previous blog on The True Cost of Office Storage], but it also comes with a tremendous opportunity to reduce costs.

Many organisations are reviewing the space required for their people when we return to the office, but not enough are taking the opportunity to review the space required for storage at the same time.

We take a look at FileLOOK – Baker Stuart’s filing and storage toolkit – and speak to Toby Godman, one of our filing consultants, about exactly what organisations could and should be doing.

Time to Read: 5mins

How much storage do organisations really have? Is this really a significant cost to an organisation?

Toby: In a pre-agile office, pre-Covid, we generally assumed that each person would have 1lm (linear metre) of storage.  Whilst this can vary dramatically from organisation to organisation this is the benchmark we used.  This would mean that in an office of 100 people there would be a requirement for 33 filing cabinets (3 high 1000mm x 500mm) taking up approximately 33m2 of floor space (including an allowance to enable access). 

In central Manchester, the average total occupancy cost (according to Lambeth Smith Hamptons’ Total Ocupancy Costs 2020) is £863 per year per square metre, meaning that 33 filing cabinets cost £28,466 in total occupancy costs.

In London this figure is even higher with average total occupancy costs of £2,033 per year per square metre equating to a total occupancy cost of £67,089 for our 33 filing cabinets.

Can you give examples of how much money could be saved with filing and storage audits?

Toby: It’s impossible to give an exact figure or percentage, but what we do see invariably is that a significant proportion isn’t required. 

Taking a council that we worked with as an example – they wanted to review their storage requirement as part of an opportunity to move towards more agile working methods.  Our initial audit showed that there was 3,761lm of storage which equated to 2.1lm per FTE.  Our recommendations showed that this could potentially be reduced to 1,633 lm of storage – less than half of that allocated.   Using the lower Manchester figures from above, that would enable storage costs to be reduced from £1,082,202 to £469,472 per year – a cost saving of £335 per staff member per year!

Similarly, a beverage company that we worked with were looking at moving to more agile ways of working and wanted to have a holistic view of their position in terms of storage requirements as well as people requirements.  Initial amounts of 1891lm of storage equated to £544,553 per year, and with reductions down to 975lm the potential cost saving for them was a huge £264,078 per year.

Finally, a shipping company who needed to move to smaller premises. Initial amounts of 302lm, 1.96lm per person were – on recommendation – able to be reduced to 84lm, only 0.55lm per person.  Not only could the organisation be confident of fitting into their new premises, but it meant a cost saving of £62,999 per year, or £309 per staff member per year.

How do you conduct your filing and storage audits?

Toby: Before going on site we will meet – face to face or virtually – with key departmental contacts in order to define work processes and storage requirements.  We will also ensure that all plans are up to date so that nothing is missed.

During the survey itself, we use trained auditors to capture all filing and storage in the workplace using our purpose built FileLOOK app which links directly to our detailed reporting system. 

Our experienced consultants will then review the findings alongside any retention and documentation policies that an organisation has.  From this we are able to make recommendations for the amounts of filing that are required, and where there are opportunities for either reduction or digitisation.

FileLOOK filing audit

Has Covid-19 affected the way in which you carry out your filing and storage audits?

Toby: It’s actually a great opportunity to undertake Filing Audits during Covid-19 as offices are empty and so even minimal disruption is eliminated.  However, it has meant changing our processes slightly to encompass Teams / Zoom calls after the audit in order to understand what filing is what and why it’s currently held.

What considerations do people need to take into account?

Toby: It isn’t possible to get rid of all storage – certain documents need to be retained for either legal or commercial retention requirements, however it is important to think about where they are retained.  If they are not to be accessed regularly, then they do not need to be stored on the office floor where the cost per square metre is at a premium.  Instead, a more cost effective solution could be to either back scan the storage online, or place it into deep storage off site. 

Organisations should also be mindful of how normal ways of working are changing and the impact that this will have on storage moving forward.  With work becoming much more flexible [see our previous blog on staff wellbeing] staff will be in the office less which will mean that they won’t have access to their storage.  Any filing that staff need on a daily basis will need to either fit in their backpack or be stored electronically to enable access from wherever they are working.

What kind of recommendations are you able to make?

Toby: There are 6 main recommendations that we make to organisations as a result of carrying out a filing audit;

  • Destruction
  • Deep storage
  • Back scanning
  • Scan on Demand
  • Local off site storage, and
  • On site storage

Additionally, where filing is to be kept on site we suggest reviewing the types of media used.   We typically find that inefficient types of filing such as Box Files, Lever Arch files and Boxes / Archive account for between 20-30% of filing.  This can usually be reduced by half if transferred to A4 lateral filing or other more efficient filing means.

About the Author: Toby Godman has been a key member of the Baker Stuart team for more than 5 years and is responsible for ensuring that the data gathered across our WorkLOOK work analytics toolkit is transformed into reports that make a difference to our clients and allow them to make evidence led decisions.  When not at work Toby can be found either playing football or watching Chelsea with friends.

Baker Stuart

About Baker Stuart: We are an independent specialist consultancy providing a comprehensive range of innovative workplace strategy, workplace management and change, move management, project management and programme management services. Thinking about optimising your organisation? Get in touch with us here.


Offices in London, Manchester,
Edinburgh and Dublin
Offices in London, Manchester,
Edinburgh and Dublin
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