A potted history of the office

The environment you work in can have a tremendous effect on how you feel about work – and that’s been true for several hundred years. Whilst the big, open-plan office may be a relatively recent thing, people have always valued a good space to work.


The coffee shop

Long before soya lattes and dry cappuccinos, London – and other major business areas across the country – was full of coffee houses. This is where mercantile business of all sorts was handled – it’s where you went to meet people, to collaborate and to do deals. Companies like the East India Trading Company may have had a dedicated building and areas for clerks to work, but much business was done outside the building, rather than inside it. In fact, lots of people do what we do today, and worked from a space in their home.

Things we don’t miss from this period:

• Ink stains
• Quill pens
• Adding machines

The birth of offices as we recognise them today started in the USA in the 19th century. Businesses could centralise more of their functions and increase their business because communications had improved – the introduction of the telegraph and the telephone saw to that.

With a more educated workforce, economies that needed commerce to survive and the ability to trade faster and easier both internally and overseas, businesses wanted to invest in buildings that reflected their wealth, power and strength. It’s this attitude, along with the need to generate as much money as possible from a small space, that led to the design and building of the first skyscrapers


But what now? Is it all funky and fun?

The most recent development in office space has come with the understanding that people perform better in positive environments. For companies like Facebook, YouTube and AirBnB,  this might mean slides, indoor gardens, bikes to get from one bit of the office to another, and glowing walkways, but for smaller businesses, it could mean something as simple as an injection of colour, better natural light, well-equipped breakout rooms and well-designed, comfortable furniture.

If you’d like your working space to be less historic and more The Future; if you’d like your working space to reflect your brand and engage your people, have a chat with us today.