The other day I was driving into work, and the notion hit me that over the past 3 years, our offices, work schedules, work tools, and where we work from have all changed drastically. That got me thinking about how offices and work environments have changed over the years.
In the late 1950s, the Quickborner consulting group located in Germany was established as a space planning firm. The group viewed the current offices of the day to be uninspiring and downright dull, with rows of desks and a repressive office hierarchy. Their approach was called Bürolandschaft, a German term that means “office landscape.” It was a very contemporary design with irregular geometry and organic patterns to break up the layout of offices. This flexible approach allowed each space to be dealt with differently, and for the first time, a breakroom was introduced in office designs.
In the 1960s, Robert Propst, President of Herman Miller Research Corporation, looked into how the office world operated. He famously stated, “today’s office is a wasteland. It saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment. It is the daily scene of unfulfilled intentions and failed effort.” His answer to this was the Action Office System (originally introduced by the corporation’s namesake, Herman Miller). This was the world’s first open-plan office system. Action Offices allowed for configuring and reconfiguring the office layout as needed.
The 1970s saw the introduction of the first ergonomic office furniture, making the office more comfortable and fostering health and wellness. The 70’s also introduced the office environment to brighter colors, wallpaper, groovy shag carpet, and patterns and shapes on everything that didn’t move. Unfortunately, noisy metal filing cabinets and economy cubicles pretty much ruined any design sense that might have existed.
The 1980s office design had a new challenge; word processors, fax machines, and other communication systems were all pretty much new to offices. These machines needed space, so larger and heavier desks were introduced to accommodate them. The office had a more function-built feel than past designs, where modular walls and other components were introduced in mass. The open office plan was now a thing of the past (at least for the time being).
Office designs of the 1990s were aimed at reducing clutter and streamlining efficiency. With a greater focus on employee collaboration than in the past, the open office format became popular once again. This was also the decade when a PC on every desk started to become the norm.
2000s – 2022
The rise of “Coworking” in the 2010s was meteoric. Coworking (think WeWork) provided spaces where people from different companies could work and collaborate in the same space, opening up new options on how and where to do business. Tech firms went all in on new and creative designs, from Apple’s Apple Park campus to Bloomberg’s European Headquarters, which ranks as the world’s most sustainable office building. Sustainability and community became highly valued aspects of offices in the 2010s. Flexible schedules and remote work became extremely important, especially during the Covid-19 outbreak of 2020. These new work options have become a very important issue for employees today. According to the Gallup survey, 51% percent of participants stated that they would change jobs if allowed flexible schedules, and 35% said they would change jobs if they could work from home.
We here at Shachihata have been a part of the office evolution since its earliest days, supplying stamp pads, rubber stamps, markers, pens, signage, and so much more. To view our full line of products, many of which are ideally suited for offices in their many forms, click here.
Where does the evolution go next, no one knows for sure, but it will be fun to watch. One thing is certain; we’ll be here with new products and innovations for these future office needs!
– Edited by: Charles Arjavac, Marketing Manager, Shachihata Inc. (U.S.A.)