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The global events of the past few years and the coronavirus pandemic have initiated a metamorphosis and adaptation in almost every sphere of our life. The way we do business was not immune to these circumstances. As a result, the way we think of and design our office spaces is currently going through a major evolutionary process. In this newsletter we wanted to look at how and why the office has evolved through the ages to understand where we are today and how offices should be designed to increase employee satisfaction, retention and increase productivity.

The first forms of offices were created long ago, in ancient times. However, the offices as we know them today were initially the product of the Age of Enlightenment. It was then, ideas about productivity and performance became important.

During the era of industrialisation, businesses started growing exponentially and the concept of office buildings was born. The first premises of that kind were usually erected in proximity to new factories, or outside of the cities and towns. Valuable inventions such as electrical currents, light bulbs, typewriters and even the telephone contributed to the expansion of office buildings around the world. 

In 1935, the first open-plan offices were designed in the US by the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. They have since expanded all over the world. This particular layout was designed to mimic the assembly line of a factory and therefore boost the efficiency and productivity of staff. Open-plan office spaces were particularly popular among employers as they enabled quick and easy monitoring of employees.

The next major change in office design occurred in the 1970s as society progressed from industrial to service-based economical processes. Monitoring was no longer necessary, as specialist departments were combined with group offices. In the 1980s, the introduction of the computer influenced the biggest change up until that time. Server rooms, cables, technical equipment and work stations shaped the office spaces of that era, and basically ever since.

In the 1990s, e-mails and the internet influenced communication between employees, as facts and news could be found and shared within seconds. Then in the first decade of the 21st century, the invention of the first smart phone revolutionised the way people work. At this point, work could be done from anywhere, and not just in the office. After all, you could suddenly carry files and documents in your pocket, and remote working was born. 

Nowadays, the global pandemic has initiated the newest step in the evolution of office spaces. As a result of digitalisation and technological advances, we are now able to perform any task, and lead our enterprises in a variety of ways. There are many models in which the corporations of today can choose to do their businesses. A growing number of companies are opting for the hybrid method, which is combining employees to working from home, as well as in the traditional office setting. Once again, our approach to designing office space needs to evolve in order to accommodate the new needs of employees, management and business owners.

Remote work and home offices will remain an essential part of the office landscape; office space is the focal point of social coherence and therefore needs to be planned and equipped appropriately. Offices are places of collaboration, communication, and encounters. Interaction is key to increase productivity and efficiency.

Therefore, open-plan layouts in combination with more private and protected areas are perfectly balanced spaces that can accommodate both teamwork, as well as providing necessary distance.

In the second decade of the 21st century, the psychological aspect and the well-being of employees is as equally important as the functional aspect of office design. Ergonomic furniture, more natural light, and green/ sustainable initiatives are just some of the basic requirements that any office space should fulfil.

To sum up, in the office design of today and tomorrow there is no space for dated, functionless and one-size-fits-all approaches. Your employees are your greatest asset and providing them with an optimised and modern office space is a must. We can see that throughout the years office design has changed and evolved with the needs of society and technology. We are in a pivotal time in which we’ve had to adapt many aspects of our lives, and it’s important that our working environment is one of them.

We at Think Contemporary have over 10 years experience in the office design sector and we continue to develop and hone our skills in this area.

Are you thinking about an office refurbishment to take your workplace to the next level? Contact us today to speak to one of our designers.