While Covid-19 was the catalyst for arguably the most rapid global shift in work style, people’s style of work has been gradually changing since the beginning of time. As the nature of work evolved, so did the workplace. Thus, we have seen the emergence of workshops, factories, cubicle offices, work from home, and nearly everything in between. Let’s take a look at the various work models to see what has worked over the decades and what has not.
If you think “work from home” was a post-pandemic trend, think again. Going all the way back to the beginning of human civilization, in hunter-gatherer societies, having a workspace that doubled as a living space was an effective way to maximize land and resources.
In medieval times, the most common professions were carpenters, bakers, butchers, blacksmiths, potters, etc. Civilians conducted their business from workshops within their homes and customers would have to walk inside to purchase their goods.
In 1906, architect Frank Lloyd Wright built the Larkin Administration building in Buffalo, New York. It featured an open floor plan with very few walls and numerous rows of desks. The advantage of having all workers stacked in rows like this was that managers could easily monitor everyone’s productivity in one glance. This open floor plan became the standard for office buildings of this time.
Around the 1980s, the typical office layout shifted from an open concept to a cubicle farm style, in which employees were separated from one another by a sea of modular walls. These semi-private workspaces were intended to increase focus and drive productivity.
As millennials entered the workforce in the 2000s, we saw an increased need for teamwork within the office. This prompted employers to establish workplaces that allowed employees equal opportunities for heads-down work and collaboration.
The Covid-19 outbreak hardly needs further elaboration. It necessitated the abrupt closure of many office buildings across the globe, as working civilians were ushered indoors. Prior to the pandemic, only 20% of employed adults worked from home. During the pandemic, that number skyrocketed to 71%.
Many people thought that doing their job from home would be impossible. However, the human resilience demonstrated during the pandemic was remarkable. Coworkers found alternative ways to communicate via Zoom, Microsoft Teams, email, etc. Now, recent polls show that working Americans actually prefer working from home. Nonetheless, the value of the office as a destination for collaboration and innovation is irreplaceable. That is why nearly 74% of American companies have adopted a hybrid model of work–– where employees work partially from home and partially from the office.
As the pandemic demonstrated, no one can predict the future. The best thing a company can do is to implement flexible practices that can be adapted to withstand the test of time. In terms of office design, that looks like offering a wide variety of working settings so that employees’ individual work styles and needs can be supported. In other words, the ideal workplace would be equipped with comfortable communal areas, productive collaborative spaces, and private offices for heads-down work.
As you can see, the workplace has changed dramatically over time and will continue to do so as the needs of humanity evolves. Luckily, Interior Motions will be here every step of the way to support the ever-changing demands of work.
Also Read: Mental Health in the Workplace