The History of Office Design

Office design trends and styles are constantly changing. However, office design isn’t just about how the office looks, it also affects how we work within the office space, therefore it’s essential that your business gets the right office design for your needs.

The History Of Office Design

Have you ever wondered where the office as we know it began? Here are some quick facts so you can learn more about the area of art and design that affects many of our lives.

Ancient Roman Origins

To our knowledge, office space as we know it originated in ancient Rome. Inside the Roman government buildings, administrative duties such as paperwork were carried out in separate areas of buildings.

Whilst separate offices existed in buildings during the ancient Roman times, it’s believed that the first purposefully constructed office building, created solely for the purpose of office work, was produced by the British Royal Navy in the 18th century. This was the Old Admiralty Building in London.

The Taylorism Office Style

Pioneered by Frank Taylor, a talented mechanical engineer; the Taylorism style seeks to optimise and simplify jobs in order to increase productivity and industrial efficiency. In the Taylorist style, workers are sat on long desks with managers observing them from above.

This style of office design emphasises rigidity, prioritising the labour output of employees rather than their welfare. However, Taylor’s ideas and philosophies are not all entirely relics of the past. In 1911 he published a book titled ‘The Principles of Scientific Management’ and parts of his business philosophy are still in use today.


Translating into “office landscape”, this German office design style of the ’50s promoted a more collaborative work environment which many now know as the open plan office design. This design provided large open spaces with screens and plants used to create work groups, with the privileges of private office spaces being reserved for more senior members of staff.

The Cubicle

So common in our minds it’s almost a-cliché, the office cubicle was designed to provide employees with their own private space so they can concentrate on their work. It also had the added benefit of easy installation and cheap fitting costs, resulting in the design becoming very popular amongst many business owners.

However, despite being an incredibly popular design for decades, their claustrophobic design has received a lot of criticism in recent years.

The Modern Office

As time and technology advance, the average employee has much more freedom at work than those working in less updated environments. For example, co-working spaces, flexible working environments, and the rise of breakout spaces emphasise the importance of work-life balance. They choose to focus on improving employee well-being as a method of improving workplace productivity, instead of the labour output priorities we saw with Taylorist styles.

So what about the future of office design in London?

In the last decade, blogs and articles in the office interiors industry discussed the needs and desires of millennials within the workplace. However, as we move into the 2020s it’s important to note that millennials are no longer the newcomers; in fact, the oldest members of Gen Z are starting to enter the workplace, so it’s very important to consider the habits and needs of the younger generation.

For example, Gen Z has grown up in a world where people can work anywhere with an internet connection. This makes them the ideal employees for agile and dynamic working environments. Expect to see multi-functional office elements that are moveable and lightweight so that they can fit any space and purpose.

The focus on dynamic workspaces is only further magnified by our growing population. As the world population grows, as more people enter the world of work, and as businesses grow and expand; space is going to become more and more valuable. Therefore, it’s essential that businesses make the most out of the space that is available to them. As such, dynamic office designs that allow for the workspace to be customised by employees to best suit their needs allow for your staff to make the most out of the space available to them.

Why choose Oaktree Interiors?

The team of office interior professionals at Oaktree Interiors have 30 years of industry experience. We have no ‘house style’. Every proposal we make is created to meet the unique needs of the client. Our team of experts will design an environment that suits your needs; we will manage the project with the least disruption, and we will build to the highest standard, upholding our promise to deliver on time and within budget.

We strongly believe that a practical, well-designed and aesthetically pleasing office is all you need to keep your workforce comfortable and productive. We’ll create the perfect office space to inspire & motivate your employees. We have a proven track record of creating bespoke, functional workplaces that have a big impact on the working practices of staff. In fact, many of our clients return to us to help with additional projects.

Contact the Oaktree team today

Here at Oaktree Interiors, we understand the effects that a well-designed office has on a workplace. It isn’t just a place for staff to exist in; it’s part of the working team. That is why we take great care in understanding every single requirement our clients have. So if you are searching for an office design solution created to meet the unique needs of your business, get in touch with our friendly team today and request a free consultation.

You can speak to a member of the Oaktree Interiors team by calling 0345 218 6955. However, if you would like to get in touch with the team using the Internet, you can do so in the following ways:

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