Office Design: The Evolution of Desks and Chairs

It has been reported that at least 86 percent of Americans work sitting at a desk. With most of the population sitting with a desk and a chair, there has got to be a history design behind the styles of office design. Well, there is!
Around the world, people have been innovating new ways to set up their offices in a way that improves productivity, while also enhancing a sense of community. Just like everything else, office design has seen an evolution over the years.
In this blog, we will be discussing the evolution of office design and how the layout of an office can affect workers. If you are currently looking for an office space for your team or business, Fractal, in Ontario, has exactly what you are looking for! At Fractal, you can rent well-designed office spaces for monthly use. And, each of our offices are crafted to incorporate both elements of design and functionality, which means that you can receive a beautiful office space that has a layout to promote worker efficiency.

The Very First Office

Though it can be argued that the first office spaces began long before the 18th century, our history timeline will begin in England in the 1700s. During this time, the British Empire was growing at a rapid rate, as explorers journeyed over oceans to find new worlds. In their discoveries, these explorers found many different goods and resources to bring back to England. With the new market of goods from the New World, trade was at an all-time high for the British. Because of this, the first office building had to be erected in 1726 to keep up with the incoming shipments. This building was known as the Old Admiralty Office and served to handle the masses of paperwork generated by the Royal Navy.
The office space was used to conduct meetings and was later also used as the Admiralty Board Room. This room was necessary to organize how all the documents would be stored, the processes for filing the paperwork, and how many more shipments of goods they would need. Today, The Old Admiralty Office is still in use, but still holds the title of the very first office space.

Taylorism Office Design

The Old Admiralty Office was the first office, but bigger companies would soon follow. For example, The East India Trading Company adopted their own office building that would act as their headquarters to sort through the paperwork of the company. Innovations to office design didn’t happen again until the 20th century. The new office design was called Taylorism and emphasised efficiency and rigid schedules and layouts. The term was named Taylorism by the mechanical engineer, Frank Taylor, who created the office arrangement to maximize industry efficiency.
Though Taylorism created an office space that demanded high performance, there have been many critics of Taylorism. And, as psychology and the study of social efficiency formed and evolved, more people condemned this style of office design.
Taylorism depends on workers being lined up in straight lines and being packed closely together. In the 20th century, factories were filled with workers, all an elbow apart. Taylorism’s main flaw was that it did not consider the worker’s personal space or enjoyment of their job. Instead, Taylorism was purely concerned with achieving results and reaching the maximum level of productivity.

Skyscrapers Change Minds

While Taylorism was in full effect, there were other innovations that were taking place that would revolutionize the way people worked. Skyscrapers were being built in cities across the USA and in the UK. This new way of creating large buildings changed the way that people believed they should work. With the invention of the skyscraper, other innovations were possible, and were included in these buildings, such as electricity, air conditioning, elevators, and phone systems. With all of these changes to the location people worked, this meant that they could reconsider how they worked. This gave birth to the open plan office design.

The Open Office Plan

With the invention of the skyscrapers and other commercial buildings, workplaces could alter their spacious offices to be arranged in different ways. For instance, private offices and open plan workstations became increasingly popular. This style allowed leaders and executives to rise above and gain their own personal offices, while workers were able to have more room to do their work.

This revolution in design initially began due to the innovated designs by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939. Wright designed the new office space for The Johnson Wax company, and created one of the first open office plans that revolutionized how office spaces could be built. The office Wright had designed was created to increase productivity, but also consider the lives of the workers. For instance, the office spaces features elements such as bright lighting, warm colors, and high, cork ceilings. The warm colors had the intention of making the workers comfortable at their desks, while the cork ceiling was designed to absorb the acoustic of the office, such as the general noises and the sounds of the typewriters.

Bürolandschaft

In the early 1960s, the changing times gave way to newer office plans. For instance, socially democratic layout plans were encouraged in the work force, mainly because they encouraged interactions between workers. This attention to the socialization of workers became an office design known as Burolandschaft.

The german office layout advocated for less rigid office landscapes and encouraged teams to be grouped together. Due to this layout, office spaces began to group into teams and gain collaborative advantages. For example, communication was much more efficient and teams were able to form their own communities. Not only that, but different levels of managerial staff were able to communicate and form friendships much more easily. Ultimately, this style of office plan increased worker enjoyment and performance.

Cubicle Farm

Though the 1960s and 1970s were both progressive eras for office design, the 1980s retracted those evolutionary steps with the introduction of the cubicle farm. Instead of using open concepts and collaborative office landscapes, the cubicle farm introduced closed off, individual workspaces. This digression was devastating for office design, especially because the 60s and 70s had embraced open layouts so drastically. Instead, the cubicle format of working, used small, individual desks that were closed off by three walls. It was suspected that by being closed off, workers would be able to focus and get more work done. However, this office design had intense backlash, as the office design increased depression and burnout rates among workers.

Offices Today

Today, offices can incorporate many different types of designs. However, as technology has evolved, people are not bound to their desks like they used to be. Many workers can work remotely, or work in coffee shops, their homes, or in the lounges of their office buildings. Because there is no need for large computer monitors anymore, workers have adopted a new system getting their work done. With the invention of laptops, workers can be one-the-go and get their work done the way they want to. Many companies have embraced this free open space plan, and have encouraged workers to use open workspaces, such as lounges, meeting rooms, and other collaborative spaces to work and socialize with others.

Fractal Coworking Business Offices For Rent

At Fractal, we can help your business find the offices space right for you. Whether you believe open space office plans are for you or you would like workers to work independently, we have many different office plans available to you. If you would like to check out our office plans, visit our website today!