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Workplace Evolution

Think about your business office, whether in an actual building, at home, or another remote location. How has it changed over the years? How would it compare to an office from decades before?

The way we conceptualize and execute our workspaces has changed quite drastically over the years. Aside from functionality and comfort, advancements in technology have also influenced these changes.

The shift from manual to nonmanual labor saw an increase in workers reporting to office. This forced offices to look at ways to optimize efficiency in their growing industry.

Early on, offices took inspiration from factories and set up desks in long rows. Counting houses were much more cramped, typically about 25 square feet housing four partners and six clerical workers. Both setups were implemented in hopes of keeping a watchful eye over workers, ensuring maximum productivity.

And to take this a step further, thanks to Frederick Taylor, we have the position of the manager, a person who separates knowledge from basic work process and is in control of how work is getting done. While some workspaces have moved toward a nonhierarchical model, managers still play an important role in most offices and industries.

Aside from this new position, an office redesign was also in order. One of the more notable redesigns came from Frank Lloyd Wright in the form of new headquarters for the Larkin Company in New York. It featured a skylight-accented central court, letting natural light in for the entire building. Unfortunately, the upgrade was a fa├žade, as it was designed for easy supervision and surveillance, with the central court filled with rows of desks with uniformed workers. While the office appeared to have changed, the work remained the same, with more supervision to ensure employees remained productive.

The 1960s then brought Robert Propst’s Action Office, which focused on getting employees moving rather than keeping them in place. This open-concept included a desk for sitting and a larger drafting table for standing, as well as a mobile table for meetings and an acoustically insulated telephone dock.

Sadly, these offices failed to sell, so Propst went back to the drawing board and proposed the Action Office II. Workstations were reduced and encased with three walls made of disposable materials. Theoretically, you could arrange these workstations to create a floor design to suit your needs. As you can already assume, this design led to what we all know now as the cubicle.

Because of their affordability, cubicles were a mainstay for decades to come. Though different takes on desks and cubicles emerged, none really proved as successful. The twenty-first century introduced a variety of perks to improve employee satisfaction, thus resulting in increased employee retention. A great example would be Google’s Mountain View campus, which offers workers free food, a gym, and day care, among other benefits. Another way to save money and increase worker satisfaction is being offered in the form of remote work. This allows employees to take advantage of new technologies which enable us to work from nearly any remote location.

Each of workspace has its advantages and disadvantages. What type of workspace do you prefer? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.

Our vast selection of new and refurbished business and conference phones are ideal for your workspace. Browse our stock online at or call 800-564-8045 for more information.

Article Name
Workplace Evolution
Reporting to an office wasn't optional in the past. Take a look at how workspaces were once designed and see how far we have come.

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