Farewell to the File Cabinet


Over the past few weeks, at every single programming meeting I’ve attended, the same topic has come up: file storage. No, the companies weren’t looking to add that into the plan; they were looking for ways to embrace technology and reduce, or even eliminate, the need for physical space for documents.

Music to my ears!

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The file cabinet, that big, bulky monstrosity that sits in the corner eating up valuable floor space, is a relic and we shouldn’t be hesitant to relieve ourselves of it as fast as possible.

For 10-plus years, I’ve been advocating that firms scan documents and files rather than physically bringing them along as they move or expand. After all, real estate is a valuable commodity and tenants today need to maximize every inch of square footage to keep costs in check and make the work environment modern and welcoming.

It’s pretty simple: One five-foot-tall cabinet versus a one-inch-tall zip drive containing the same amount of material and information? A child could tell you which is more practical.

While change is never easy, cloud technology has made it simpler than ever to take the leap. Social media and tech firms were the early adopters of this trend and have paved the way for others to follow suit. Virtual storage is now the domain of more traditional end users. Those meetings I just mentioned? They were with an advertising firm, two financial services entities, a private equity company and two law firms.

So, what are tenants doing with this newfound space? They are increasing density by adding more employees into workspaces, creating “town square” gathering areas and meeting rooms and even putting in game rooms. All of these ideas are far more interesting than papers gathering dust.

For those firms that do still need to keep documents for several years, whether for legal compliance or due to the nature of their business, smarter storage options exist. Off-site storage centers can house essential papers and the rest can be digitally archived. This practice is great for trees and great for cost savings.

By letting go of what worked in the past, companies can open up new design possibilities and look toward the future. Here’s to a more environmentally friendly, well-designed workplace!


Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 2,000 projects.