A short history of the office - Deepstash
A short history of the office

A short history of the office

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A short history of the office

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A slow change from home to office

The office's history shows how our work has changed and how work's physical spaces respond to cultural, technological, and social influences

  • During medieval times, most people worked from home.
  • A turning point came during the 17th century. Lawyers, civil servants, and other new professionals began to work from offices in Amsterdam, London, and Paris. However, other professions continued working from home.
  • In the 19th century, banking dynasties operated from luxurious homes to make clients feel at ease.
  • Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, specialized office designs reinforced a distinction between work and home.

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  • Before the modern office, monasteries introduced timekeeping to the monk's daily routines.
  • Later, the office was understood to be a factory-like environment.
  • Work was depicted as a series of tasks that could be rationalised, standardised and calculated into an efficient production machine.

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  • The telegraph, telephone, and dictating machine changed the concept of work and office design as telecommunications meant office could be separate from factories and warehouses and differentiate between white and blue-collar workers.
  • While these technologies made a distributed workforce possible, American offices became more centralised.
  • Online connectivity potentially ensures a move away from the office to working from home.

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Anthropological research shows how physical proximity increases interactions. The office is an important factor in communicating the necessary cues of leadership, collaboration, and communication.

Although employees might move back to the physical space of the office again, boundaries are changing.

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