When you think about furniture design, the last thing that probably crosses many people’s minds is their office furniture. They believe that it isn’t important because it is just something that they use for work. When they leave their office, it is no longer critical.

That last point, however, is exactly why they should be thinking about it. The average American worker spends 47 hours a week at their job. In fact, four out of every ten employees spend 51 hours at their workplace. Now, not all of those people have office jobs, but tens of millions do. If you are one of those people or their boss, you really should spend some time thinking about the design of your office. Before you go searching for office furniture though, it might be some fun to learn a little bit.

You may not believe it, but the history of office design is kind of interesting. Not just because furniture design is fantastic. It’s cool because it has a significant impact on productivity, and reflects on our society. I know that sounds weird, but it’s true. You’ll know everything you ever needed to know about office furniture design, and how to make your office the kind of place people actually want to spend 47 hours a week in.

Office Design: A Footnote In History But Not Our Lives

Office design -- glass office

Image: Furniture Factory, used with permission

As I mentioned above, people often forget office design history while discussing the design industry. Historians don’t seem to have paid much attention to it at all. This is actually very strange considering how much office design has impacted society.

History is made in offices, seriously, technological advances happen, bills are signed and deals are signed. As technology changed, office design did as well. These designs have made it possible for businesses to be profitable and information to make its way to the public. And whether you realize it or not, they are vitally important to you.

Think of a newsroom. Designed in a way that makes it easier for journalists to get the news to the public quickly, newsroom set-ups are very significant. In an ample open space with cubicles, reporters are able to quickly reach out to their colleagues and get input on pieces they are furiously typing. These offices would not be nearly as effective if they forced journalists to run down hallways.

Executive offices are another example of how vital functional workspaces are. Executives need private spaces in order to conduct business. Therefore, their offices are laid out in a way that makes it easier for them to work in a quiet space. A space that also impresses on clients that this person has earned their way to where they are, and inspires confidence.

More importantly, you should note that office furniture design plays a vital role in all of this. Office furniture design has gone through many changes but all of these transformations have made it possible for employers and employees to do their jobs.

Early office designs

The modern office shows how many hours Americans spend at work. It wasn’t always like that though. Prior to the 20th Century, office design was all about production. Although government offices were more like what you see today, the average office space was not. They were just workspaces with a desk, chair and storage shelves.

During the early 20th century, however, that all changed. As technology developed, so was the open office design. This was a way for companies to increase production, save space, hire large workforces and encourage collaboration in the office. They mainly consisted of crowded rooms with long tables and chairs. The industrial era profoundly influenced these office spaces, and the typewriter desk was also familiar:

Office design -- typewriter desk

Image: CC0, by mikilnarayani, via Pixabay

In 1930, designer Marcel Breuer’s steel B65 desk became popular. It was a basic steel desk, with a couple of desk drawers attached to it. And in 1947, designer George Nelson’s “Home Office Desk” was a big deal:

office design, designer George Nelson's desk

Image: CC by 3.0, by Sailko, via Wikipedia

Finally, in the 1960s, Herman Mill, Inc. under the leadership of George Miller and with designer Robert Propst revolutionalized the corporate office.

Designer Robert Propst and the office furniture revolution

office design -- cubicles

Image: Furniture Factory, used with permission

In the middle of the 20th century, head designer at furniture manufacturer Herman Miller, George Nelson, realized that the design industry was utterly ignoring offices. He seized in the opportunity to change the way people thought about their place of business.

In 1968, Nelson and designer Robert Propst began working on a furniture line to serve the corporate world. The two fought about which direction to go in for awhile, and eventually, Nelson bowed out of the project. After Propst was free of the bickering, he was able to spread his wings. With his newfound freedom, the cubicle, or “Action Office II,” was born.

The Action Office II was a mobile wall unit with two or three walls that gave people a little bit of privacy. However, the walls were short enough that they allowed the worker to continue to participate in the open workspace. What Propst realized was that employees worked better when they had some degree of privacy.

With the newly created cubicle, workers were able to personalize their own space. But they could do it without bothering the other employees who were in the same room with them.

His creation was wildly successful, and other furniture manufacturers soon followed his lead. The Action Office II was essentially the birth of the modern day cubicle that is found all over the world. And later, in the 1980s, this concept was used to create linear rows of cubicles known as “cubicle farms.”

Watch this short video for more information:

The modern office: designing for comfort

As computers become more popular, the office transformed once again. Of course, there are still businesses with cubicle farms, but over the last few decades, there are also more office buildings. These office buildings contain individual offices where people can showcase their personality.

When you have risen to the level where you have an office, it is essential that you put some thought into your design. As I said in the beginning, tens of millions of people work in offices across America. They spend upwards of 51 hours a week in their workspace. If you are one of these people, you know that your office needs to be comfortable.

Think of your office as a home away from home. You want it to not only reflect your personal style, but you also want it to feel cozy. Not only will you be a more productive worker if you have a pleasant workspace, but your clients will also feel welcomed as well. There is nothing worse than going to a meeting at someone’s office and being forced to sit in an uncomfortable chair.

In the modern era, office design has been all about comfort. From the extra functional desks with lots of storage, to the chairs that are as soft as a pillow. Furniture designers have even begun producing desks that you can raise and lower so that you are not stuck sitting down all day. Here are a few examples of the modern day office:

office deisgn

Executive Desk Image Furniture Factory, used with permission

office design

Sleek Modern Design Image: Furniture Factory, used with permission

office design

Useable, Sharable, Beautiful Space Image: Furniture Factory, used with permission

Design Your Office to Help You Succeed

You see, office design is a reflection of our society. We once had spaces that were heavily influenced by the industrial era; now they are designed with technological advances in mind. Furniture designers know that what worked in 1920, or 1980, does not work in 2018. Further, without their advancements, we would be extremely uncomfortable in our workspaces. Can you imagine setting up your desktop computer on a typewriter desk and then working for 47 hours a week in a wooden chair with no cushioning? Luckily, that is not something we have to worry about, thanks to companies like Furniture Factory.

If you are in our area, we have a plethora of custom, well-designed furniture to choose from depending on our personalities and job titles. Our offices have transformed from bleak, dark spaces to beautiful airy rooms that resemble an area in our homes. And, when you go shopping for the next design for your office, you only need to ask yourself,”Will this piece of furniture help foster more productive employees while providing comfort?”

If the answer is “yes,” then you are on the right track.


Featured image: CC0, by ErikaWittlieb via Pixabay

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