What we’ve learned about office design in the last 20 years.

Posted by Diane, 5 months ago

For every decade that passes, a legacy of trends for that period is left behind. Over the past two decades, technological advancements have impacted the social dynamic in society as well as the design of a modern office environment. Here is a brief overview of the office design trends from the 2000’s to the latter part of the 2010’s and how the workplace environment could evolve in the future.

Beginning of a New Era: The 2000’s-

The 00’s brought along many technological advancements that were absent in the 90’s. Compact computers took up less desk space and online communication meant less paperwork. During the latter part of the 2000’s, cubicle desks became almost extinct as we saw the rise of the Open Plan System. The Office Landscape movement (Known as Bürolandschaft) was developed by a German team in the 1960, one of the many solutions they offered was to not build brick walls and create divisions using free-standing screens instead, saving money and time in the process. Employers hoped this layout would encourage social interaction within the workplace.

A history of office design 1: The Pre 2000's office.

(Office Cubicle from 2001)

Chairs became more ergonomic as employers began adopting a more health conscious outlook to their employees. Height adjustable desks grew in popularity due to many articles and studies exposing the adverse effects sitting down for 8 hours a day can have on your body and health. An article from the NHS suggests that ‘Sitting for long periods is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat.’ Research from the University of Chester discovered that standing up at your desk for 3 hours ‘will burn an extra 144 calories per day compared to sitting’. These discoveries prompted many to invest in height adjustable desking to reduce the risk of ill health and to burn calories without exercise. Although office environments were becoming more casual in their design, wall decor and colour schemes were still very plain and formal. Unlike previous decades, wooden flooring became a popular choice for its hard-wearing properties which added a modern touch to the environment.

Home or Office? The 2010’s-

The 2010’s has seen the most radical change for office interiors. Bright, creative, casual, and homely environments have been introduced and the wellbeing of employees within the workplace has become a focus. A range of breakout and collaborative areas are essential in an office design to promote movement and communication within the workplace. Furniture manufacturers have advanced their products to work in parallel with this notion by integrating power sources into furniture pieces. The advancements in technology have played a huge role in making the evolution of office spaces achievable. With the introduction to slimmer and more powerful computers and laptops, as well as superior smart phones, you can now work wirelessly which makes working around the office an effortless endeavour.

A history of office design 2: Home or office?

(Office Design from 2016)

Offices have become more artistic in their design. Inspirational colours can be found on the flooring, furniture, and partitioning to help provide a stimulating environment for employees to work in. The office dynamic has also changed due to the continuing developments in technology and increasing value of commercial properties. More and more people are working from home and ‘pop’ into the office for a few hours to hot desk rather than spending their whole working week in one place.

Where to next? 2020 onwards-

Reflecting on the significant changes in office design that have occurred over the past couple of decades leaves a lot of questions about the future. What will the office environment look like in 30, 40, 50 years’ time? Will the office as we know it today even exist? One prediction that many experts are making is that by 2020 almost half of the UK workforce will be working remotely. Statistics from the ONS show that from 2015 to 2017 there has been a drastic increase in the number of people nationwide who regularly work from home. If this trend continues, offices could become redundant in the future.

A history of office design 3: The modern day

(A futuristic office interpretation)

 Another trend that has been developing in the last few years is bringing nature into the office. Studies show that biophilic design helps to reconnect people with nature and can have dramatic effects on employee’s mental health, thus producing a better work rate.

To summarise

Many changes have occurred over the past two decades in the workplace. Technological advances have had a major impact on society, office dynamics and ultimately office design. Many of the trends that began in the 2000’s have been amplified in the 2010’s. Does this mean that the future will follow this pattern or take a completely different path?

We will have to wait and see!












Written by Samuel Muzsynai – Junior Designer