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The True Cost of Storage

The true cost of office storage: How a filing and storage audit can benefit the environment and save you money

Office filing and storage doesn’t just take up valuable space it is damaging the environment – is it time to reduce our storage footprint and dump the junk?


We love our filing cabinets

There’s no getting round it. Our office filing cabinets are full of lovely tangible, paper which can’t delete itself and doesn’t need backing up. Paper filing is reassuring. We do our banking online, receive statements by email, yet we still like the printed copy in the post to check and file. Your password collection? Saved in your cloud perhaps, yet a printed copy lurks in your bottom drawer. What about your weekly strategy team meeting minutes? You might save it to your cloud and distribute it to the team by email. And then everyone prints a copy off for ‘their’ files!

There are many good reasons for printing and keeping paper documents – and by no means are the reasons above wrong reasons to keep paper. We have been undertaking office storage audits for a number of years and each individual and team will have their own requirements, operating style and processes – all legitimate reasons to keep paper filing where needed.

What our filing and storage surveys do show however, is that on average 80% of filing does not need to be held on-site. This means that eight out of 10 filing cabinets are home to paper documentation that is accessed rarely, if ever.

What are we hoarding in our filing cabinets?

Our research has unearthed many explanations for the sheer volume of paper in our offices – some of which you may identify with!

  • Just in case I need it (‘comfort’ filing)

This applies to most of us, most of the time, and includes the examples given above. The majority of us do not trust electronic filing systems implicitly yet. It is in our nature to prefer things that we can see and touch.

  • Because I have to keep it (document retention)

We find there are often misunderstandings around how much paper needs to be kept, and how long for. This is usually mitigated by erring on the side of caution and not throwing anything away! Also overlooked is the prospect of filing the paper off-site, or indeed using digital file storage. Does it have to be in paper format?

  • Ex-employees

Whose job is it to sort and discard all the paperwork that might have been generated by one employee? There are often entire filing cabinets filled with documents that no one knows even exist or are too scared to touch. No one currently in the firm generated it. The new recruit has their own way of doing things, and no one  has accessed said filing cabinet for years!.

  • Duplicate filing, periodicals and publications

This goes back to the example of the Team Minutes. Are several people in different areas of the business keeping the same files, unbeknownst to them? Is there a strategic overview in place or any control over who files what and where?

  • Stationery

Remember those envelopes and letterheads with the old logo on them? The collateral from the last campaign; or those beautifully designed glossy (but out of date!) brochures that no one has the time, inclination or heart to throw away? What about the 100 spare foolscap binders taking up precious storage space in the hoarders’ stationery cabinet? When we conduct our filing and storage audits we often find a lot of duplicated stationery, each team has it’s own stash often amounting to veritable mountains of the stuff.

Our Office Storage Habits Waste Space And Money

The average filing cabinet uses 1.2 square metres of your office floor space, including the space required to open a drawer. According to Lambert Smith Hampton’s Total Office Cost Survey, businesses will pay up to £1550 per square metre per year in Central London.

Referring back to the 1.2 square metres we know a filing cabinet needs, multiply this by the cost per metre (£1550) and suddenly you have potentially unnecessary storage units costing you £1860 each per year! We know that, on average, members of staff have one filing cabinet each. Central team storage often uses a similar amount. This means that an office of 100 staff could have two cabinets each with a spatial value of over £3720 per staff member. Those filing cabinets are costing this company £372,000 per year!

Our Obsession with Office Filing is Damaging the Environment

Leaving aside the financial frivolity; the real, hidden villain is the damage this wasted space is causing to the environment. The office space these filing cabinets inhabit will be air-conditioned, well-lit and centrally heated. Those storage units are kept snuggly warm through the winter months and nice and cool during the summer – what lucky pieces of paper!

The negative impact on the environment is considerable. Disregarding the number of trees we are merrily chopping to fill the cabinets, the impact of the energy wasted alone is incredible. Research into CO² emissions attributable to office power-generation and air-conditioning reveal that each filing cabinet is accountable for 0.24 tonnes of CO² emitted every year. The numbers are frightening. A typical office of 100 staff with 2 cabinets each is emitting approximately 50 tonnes of CO2 each year – and remember; usually 80% of it is unnecessary!

So how can an office filing and storage audit help?

It’s not all doom and gloom.

We already know we can move to renewable energy sources and cut down significantly on our CO² emissions. Yet while policies are designed and debated by government; while the Utility Companies get to grips with the demand for cleaner power; we are literally leaking carbon and cash.

So why wait? Schemes will eventually be implemented, but we know we can save tonnes – right now. Let’s dump the junk. Have a good old declutter, get rid of old filing and reclaim your office space. An office filing and storage audit can help you cut down carbon emissions by using the space for more productive purposes or even better, reducing the space required, along with your carbon footprint.

We also know from our experience conducting office storage surveys that there are a multitude of professional benefits to a good clear out. Sorting out your filing properly, destroying duplicates and getting rid of out-dated and unnecessary filing means you can create a properly indexed off-site or electronic filing solution saving both time and money. This has massive benefits in terms of Data Protection, Discovery and GDPR compliance.

For more information about our FileLOOK surveys and how our office filing and storage audits can help you reduce costs, carbon emissions and clutter; get in touch with our team now.

About Baker Stuart

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

Colin Stuart
Colin Stuart is the founding Director of Baker Stuart and has more than 25 years’ experience in workplace analytics and consultancy. With a passion for creating spaces that work for people but based on evidence not on conjecture, Colin has helped deliver significant cost reductions whilst improving business performance and staff satisfaction.
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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