A lot has changed at the office over the last century. Office design is no exception. Gone are the days when employees were confined to desks in large open areas. Today, we speak of employee wellness, breakout spaces for privacy, and office furniture that offers flexibility. Employee choice has increased as technology and changing work habits continue to evolve the office environment.

1920

Frederick Taylor, an American engineer, is one of the first to design a modern office. Taylor’s office spaces are designed to maximize productivity.  Employees work in an open space facing forward at their desk.

1930

After the 1929 Wall Street Crash, companies focused on getting work done quickly and cheaply. Offices began to improve to benefit employees. Air-conditioning and fluorescent lighting are introduced.

1940

Office spaces become more open. The focus is on organizing office space to meet the needs of employees. The creation of different work areas emerges. The use plants and partitions to create sub-divisions emerges.

1950

A time of growth, optimism, and hard work. More people are climbing the corporate ladder. One of the signs you have gained status was getting a private office. Organizations add rows of private offices to reward the growing middle management.

1960

Office designers create more socially-democratic office spaces to encourage interaction between employees. The cubicle, a cheap way to provide workers with their own makeshift offices, gained much popularity.

1970

Employee work standards influences office design. Requirements for a minimum amount of space per employee and access to daylight are implemented. The response to mandated requirements are narrow buildings with offices arranged along a corridor.

1980

Most companies have an open work space, but are looking to get back a degree of privacy. The cubicle makes a comeback and is a cheap and a flexible way to create division and privacy, while keeping the space open.

1990

Technology has a massive impact on office design allowing employees to work away from their desks. Some companies are starting to embrace smaller, more colourful, casual offices.

2000

No designated desks within the office is starting to gain popularity. Google and Yahoo lead the way to creating fun spaces for employees.

2010

Modern office spaces are designed to inspire collaboration. Resimercial design emerges which includes bringing elements of the home into office design. i.e. cozy comfortable spaces, more natural lighting, plants. More flexible work areas with multi-purpose furniture are introduced.