In our digital world, we normally think of storage in terms of gigabytes or terabytes as opposed to a physical location. The Cloud has become today’s filing cabinet. It is a fact that modern offices need increasingly less physical storage space than traditional offices. Information always used to be committed to paper and stored in the office. We call that ‘hard copy’ nowadays. And I have not even included everything that is recorded and stored on film. At the moment, we produce so much information per day (according to Computable 2.5 trillion bytes per day!! = 2.5*10 to the sixteenth) that there simply is not enough room for it all. The country would be filled with filing cabinets: the Iron Wall.
What is actually stored? Apart from organisations that still operate on the same lines of the first office in Paris in 1870, storage in modern offices focuses on things that have a physical and/or intrinsic value, implements, utensils and personal items. Valuable items that have to be safely stored and quickly retrievable. Especially because colleagues also have to have fast access to these items, storage systems have to be universal and easy to use. Locking cabinets should be absolutely forbidden, simply because large numbers of people no longer work a standard 9-5 day at the office. Files (and the documents they contain) must therefore remain accessible all the time while people are working. This is from 7:00 to 21:00 increasingly more often. For the same reason, cabinets fitted under desks that were frequently used until now are no longer seen in offices that have adopted the New Way of Working. People also tend to store ‘company files’ in the same way as their own personal files in desk cabinets. This type of situation worsens if a desk cabinet is also locked (because the files it contains are ‘confidential’, see Clean Desk Policy). Your personal storage facility is your locker, but more about that later on.
We have been familiar with mobile cabinets on rails for a long time. They are usually buried in the unenticing crypts of government and company archives. The New Way of Working has led to a revolution of inspirational ideas and the evolution of really attractively designed storage facilities that are extremely practical and user-friendly and electronically or manually operated. These systems are tailored to very human sizes and can be combined with other functionalities such as a cloakroom, pantry and lockers. This creates another HUB; sorely needed to facilitate communication in an otherwise grey office. The substantial reduction in square metres easily weighs up against the higher investment costs and multi-functionality.
Wall cabinets or cabinet walls?
Cabinets have been used as partitions for a long time. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases are a much-loved feature of and partition in Gothic library buildings. A well-designed office also has cabinets with this dual functionality. However, the height is usually limited to 100 to 160 cm in order retain a clear view of the whole space. Cabinets can also be assigned a third functionality: the bar-style cabinet (what a word!). Anyway, if the top of the cabinet has an overhang of 10 to 20 cm, it makes an ideal place for quick informal contact. An additional advantage is that meetings that take place around a bar-style cabinet usually take up less time than meetings held around a conference table. They are also a preferred place for a quick chat and (friendly) office gossip, which makes them indispensable for smooth communication.