Not your father's office: the evolution of modern office design

15 June 2018. Features.

When it comes to office life and design, somethings never change – the resounding ring of telephones, the chatter of coffee breaks, and of course there has always been a need for desks and chairs. But the overall design and efficiency of the workplace has evolved so much from the offices your parents may have encountered when they first entered the workforce twenty or thirty years ago.

Take a look at some of the things that are reminiscent of your father’s first office, and the things that have progressed over time.


Office interior design

Modern office interior design

Much like the suits your father may have worn to the office thirty years ago, office design in the 1990s was all about muted colours: beiges, whites, greys. The 70s and 80s inspired exciting colours and patterns, but this was a period of less distracting design. Office chairs had metal bases with swivels and desks were designed to afford space for both paperwork and monstrously large computers.

Modern workplaces, however, are created with employee wellbeing in mind. There is less fluorescent lighting, and more natural lighting. Office furniture is curved and colourful. It’s also more adaptable, and designed to support employee wellbeing with sit-stand desks and standing meeting tables. This means that office space efficiency has significantly improved. Breakout spaces and tea points are homier to encourage socialising and help quell daily stresses.


Office desk placement

modern office desk placement

The 1990s were witness to the slow death of cubicle farms, which were responsible for isolated and antisocial office environments. Computers were more common in the work place and people were suddenly more connected through technology than ever before. This inspired companies to encourage interaction between employees, incorporating less assigned seating so people could move around and interact with co-workers.

These days, office plans are open and agile, allowing people to move away from a static space and work collaboratively on shared projects. With more communal desks and multi-functional areas, companies have embraced smart working so people can simply plug in anywhere in the office and have access to information instantly.


Workplace technology

agile office technology

Although offices in the 90s were impacted by the dot com boom, most work was still paper-based. People often had to move from their computers to their paperwork, which meant that ergonomic chairs had to be mass produced to adhere to health and safety standards. However, computers were bulky and hard-wired and far more common for low and mid-level employees. Even some management started writing their own emails and memos rather than dictating them to secretaries.

Nowadays, technology is integrated across everything we do. Businesses have a technological infrastructure that allows most people to pick up their laptop or tablet, connect to the Wi-Fi and work productively from anywhere in the office. Files are also stored in the cloud, which means you can be more agile and even work from home. 


Working culture and office environment

modern working culture

When your parents entered the workforce, there probably wasn’t a huge emphasis on working culture. You had your work and your life, and the two hardly blended. People worked fixed hours, operated with on-premise technology and were hardwired to climb the corporate ladder to achieve success.

Today, work life is a lot more malleable and there is a bigger emphasis on employee wellbeing. People work flexible hours and have access to agile cloud-based technology, when means they can work from home. Even more impressively, workplaces are designed to encourage a sense of community and collaboration. It’s not uncommon to come across an office yoga studio or in-house gym. People are encouraged to bike to work and you’ll find a number of relaxation spaces for employees with anything from table tennis to bean bag lounges. And on top if it all, we are always connected. Work blurs more seamlessly into our daily lives, allowing us to build lasting relationships in the office and become part of a work family.


Is your office still stuck in the 90s? Contact us to find out how you a create a modern, collaborative space reflective of your company culture.

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