Falling File Cabinets and the Hidden Value of Document Management


 document management has many benefits, including not having file cabinets fall on you

You never know what you're going to find on the Web.

And when you go down the YouTube rabbit hole, that goes double.

So when I stumbled across this video (scroll down to watch it), I started thinking about the basic value of document management software and digital (and automated) business processes.

I won't belabor the benefits of document management here, we've done that in other posts (like this one, Paper, Paper Everywhere and It's Killing Your Productivity). The basic value is that you can quickly find documents so that you can use those documents to get work done.

The funny thing is filing cabinets really can be a hazard in the office. Plus, they cost money.

The Cost Argument

There's a statistic that many DM providers use (us included). It costs $25,000 to file a 4-drawer filing cabinet with documents and about $2,000 per year to maintain it (security, fire protection, and the cost of floor space).

As Stephen Colbert would say, it's a statistic that feels “truthy.” Regardless of the actual number, there are drawbacks to storing paper documents in filing cabinets:

  • Lost employee productivity walking to the filing cabinet, retrieving the file, returning to their desk, and then refiling the document. You can do quick, back-of-the envelope math for this. For the sake of argument, let's say 10 employees who make $15/hour spend five hours each week simply physically finding (hopefully) the documents they need to do their work. Minus two weeks of vacation, that's 250 hours each year. Those 10 employees are getting paid $3,750 a year to walk.
  • There's opportunity cost for using office real estate to house paper documents. Each takes up seven feet of floor space. Clogging hallways and entire rooms with filing cabinets is not productive use of valuable real estate.
  • Disaster recovery. If there's a fire or flood and there's only one copy of a document then that document is lost.

The Hazard Argument

While falls are the most common type of office injury (for some reason, people think swivel chairs with wheels are a GREAT ladder substitute), a quick search of OSHA-type sites reveals that filing cabinets are also a source of injury:

  • Smashed fingers from closing drawers
  • Head injuries from opening multiple drawers (one person working on a low drawer, another in a higher one)
  • Trips and falls from poor placement (or just having too many of them)

Papercuts didn't make the list, but who likes to get one of those?!?!

There have even been workman's comp claims based on employees hurting their back from pulling a file from an overstuffed filing cabinet (seriously, read about it here). 

I'm also not kidding about them falling over: The Day the Filing Cabinets Fell on Cindy Steinberg 

Until you're ready for digital document management, make sure you follow basic safety tips:

  • Don't put heavy stuff on top of the filing cabinet
  • Fill the cabinet from bottom to top – and keep heavy files in the bottom shelves
  • Never open the top drawers at the same time
  • When possible, anchor them to the wall
  • Don't overfill them
  • Use the handle to close them (and get your other hand out of the way!)
  • Make sure the drawer “clicks” shut so that it doesn't slide open for an unsuspecting co-worker to walk into
  • Have safety stops so that drawers can't come out

In all seriousness, all of those paper documents in filing cabinets that have you moving at the speed of paper are slowing down your business. Consider document management – we can start the conversation with a document management free consultation.

Until then, beware falling filing cabinets, avoid unladylike gyrations, and don't be like young Muckenva. Enjoy the video that inspired this post.


Also, don't try this in your office (especially if HR is around):


About The Author

Lane focuses on fixing businesses broken business processes. He is Advanced Systems Document Management Director. What does document management actually look like? Watch this free demo to find  out.