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How office design has changed over the years

Posted by Mark
April 13, 2014 in Features

Offices used to be places where hierarchies were established, often through the use of architecture.

Designers often created prestigious spaces, such as huge lobbies, to impress all who entered and, while managers had their own large rooms, employees lower down the scale were crammed into smaller workspaces or cubicles, often on other office floors.

In the past, offices divided people into their own private areas or rooms, which meant that employees were not likely to spend much time socialising during the working day, with an often distinct lack of natural light. Windows, if they were present, did not necessarily look out on to an interesting view, and distractions were usually discouraged.

People employed in offices would have their own fixed places in which to work, and where they were likely to be found at any given hour of the day.

Technology has shaped the modern office

Contrast all of this with the offices that are being designed today. Technology has been one of the most important drivers of change, as computers have evolved to become much more mobile. This has freed up workers to such an extent that they can now travel around within the office, moving from more conventional work stations to comfortable lounge or cafe areas that encourage collaboration.

The economic need to make the best use of space within a building, together with the acknowledgement that employees now spend part of their time working from home, has also encouraged a more flexible kind of office design.

As the workplace has become more egalitarian and open, reflecting the mobility that the latest technology has made possible, new styles of  office furniture  office furniture, such as long work-surfaces, have taken the place of individual desks.

Separate rooms and cubicles have given way to large, unrestricted spaces. Everyone in the office team can now interact freely, leading to more discussion and co-operation, which is likely to generate fresh ways of thinking.

Relaxing and socialising can contribute to success

Social areas within the office have acquired greater importance, as the need for employees to take breaks and recharge, in order to remain efficient, has taken hold. There is also an emphasis on interaction that is made possible by large kitchen and dining areas, where everyone can meet and chat during breaks.

To make these spaces really special, companies have added all kinds of attractions, such as games, comfortable couches and even food served by professional chefs. The theory is that if workers are happy, they will become much more productive and, in the growing culture of long hours, designing the office to feel more like home makes sense.

The outside world

Natural features have become extremely important aspects of office design, when compared with the past. Where once there were drab, windowless walls and flickering strip lights, there are now big airy spaces filled with natural light, inspiring views and even roof gardens.

Outside areas have also become part of the office, allowing employees to enjoy nature. Facilities such as bike stores and showers are now often built in to the workplace, to encourage healthy transport options. Promoting the well-being of employees is now seen as vital if companies are to succeed.

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