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Putting people at the heart of office design

A brief history of office design

Like anything relating to design, office spaces have gone through various trends and styles over the years.

This is in part due to the fact that the way we work digitally and culturally has evolved almost beyond recognition over the past 50 years.

The very first modern offices were open plan and centred around worker efficiency and were somewhat rigid in their layout. These types of offices increased in popularity following the principles laid out by US industrial engineer Frederick Winslow Taylor. ‘Taylorism’ was a methodology that maximised work efficiency and led to a real boom in US factory output, yet was criticised for failing to take into consideration the human element of work; treating workers like mindless drones.

However, when skyscrapers and commercial buildings became more commonplace, office design as a concept evolved. And subsequently, offices have gone through quite the evolution.

We’ve seen the emergence of brands creating offices that reflected their perceived corporate image; the German concept, Burolandschaft, which saw more socially democratic layouts to encourage a great degree of human interaction and engagement; modest and private offices when women entered the workplace; the dreaded office cubicles, and then a full circle manoeuvre back to open plan offices.

A shift towards putting people at the heart of office design

Now, we have Wi-Fi and other technological advancements which let us use laptops, smartphones and tablets to carry our work with ease, and it means we no longer have to be wired in, plugged in, and stuck in one place. Office design has shifted focus to create work environments that focus more on the individual – promoting both efficiency and creativity and wellbeing. A far cry from Taylorism.

Simple essentials such as adequate access to natural light without glare, reasonable working temperatures are not enough any more. Much like the government declared that the internet was a basic human right for people, the workers of today demand more as they place more emphasis on their health and wellbeing. And so basic office requirements have increased.

Secure bike storage and showers are now commonplace, as are wellness areas for yoga, meditation and exercise, comfortable break out or games areas, versatile workspaces such as standing desks, and environmentally friendly features.

By shifting the focus of office design on to the comfort and wellbeing of staff, companies can use their office as a tool to attract and retain the very best talent in a highly competitive marketplace. Whilst it’s not easy to predict what the future of office design will hold, it’s safe to bet that people will remain at its heart.

Find out more about how Westgate can help with office fit out projects here.

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