The Evolution of office layouts and furniture in Ireland

The layout and design of an office will affect how employees go about their work. Businesses should put some thought into the office layout as it will impact productivity (Leviticus, 2016 ¹). Over time, office layouts and the general approach to office design have changed dramatically. To understand the future of office design, it is important for businesses to understand how office design, layouts and furniture have evolved. In the past, grand wooden office furniture that comprised of big desks and leather chairs was used extensively. Today, furniture is streamlined compact and modular. Outlined below is a brief introduction to the evolution of office design.

Action Office and Cubicle Farm
The action office was introduced in the 1960s. This type of office design was flexible and could be easily modified without the need for businesses to invest in new and expensive furnishings. The action office design consisted of a three sided vertical division that would give employees a degree of privacy without cutting them off completely from the rest of the office. The action office design was then taken to extremes and, in the 1980s, gave birth to the cubicle farm. At this point businesses were less concerned about employee well being and more concerned about keeping costs down. The cubicle farm allowed businesses to place a large number of mid-level employees in a single workspace without the need to invest in costly executive office furniture (Morgan Lovell, n.d. ²).

Return of the Open Plan
Open plan offices had been around since the 1950s. Recognizing a need for employees to have more privacy and personal space, office design evolved into the cubicle farm. However, over time, businesses started to notice the negative effect cubicles were having on employees. Cut off from the rest of the work environment, in sterile monochromatic fabric cubes, employee productivity and creativity started to decline. This lead to a shift in the approach to office design and open plan layouts started to make a comeback. Designers had learnt from the mistakes made with open plan offices in the past. They introduced quiet zones and privacy areas to the layout, so that employees would have a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main work area. These layouts encouraged open communication and collaboration between employees.

Hot Desks and Virtual Offices
In the 1990s, the internet and computer technology changed how employees worked. Thanks to mobile phones and laptops it became possible for employees to work during their commute and from home. This gave birth to the virtual office. Employees could potentially work from anywhere as long as they had a computer and access to the internet. Some businesses introduced the concept of hot desking. Instead of having a set work station, employees were encouraged to set up and work from a different desk each time. At the turn of the 20th century, telecommuting became more common with an increasing number of employees working from home. Offices with this type of layout make use of lightweight modular furniture that can be easily modified to suit changing requirements.

Casual offices and the future of office design
Companies like Google, Apple and Facebook are perhaps the biggest proponents of the casual office design. These offices have a casual decor and make use of furniture that has a homely feel. Employees do not have a dress code and are encouraged to personalize their workspace. Casual offices employ some elements of the open plan office and combine them with action office principles. The offices of Silicon Valley giants are a good indication of how office design can be expected to evolve. The modern office will embrace different working styles. The various office layouts of the past have demonstrated that different people work well in different work environments. Businesses should incorporate elements from all these layouts and create a variety of spaces that will allow employees to work in whatever way they want.

Businesses can purchase office furniture in Ireland to suit various decors and layouts from AJ Products. More information is available on their website.

Get new items straight to your inbox

We send out our newsletter filled with articles worth reading with product guides, interior design tips and current promotions.
Sign up here!
By clicking send, I confirm that I have read the privacy policy.