The Changing Office Landscape

A lot has changed since the iconic Herman Miller furniture company offered its “Action Office system” in 1964, followed by a series of modular components (which became the origin of the ubiquitous cubicle) four years later.

Large windowless rooms divided by rows of identically proportioned spaces for employees were the norm for decades until the demand for open environments took hold over the last 20 years.

It’s not just the delineated work areas that have changed, but also the way people work. Members of this current working generation are clocking more hours at the office than previous generations, which strictly adhered to the 9 to 5 workday. To that end, designers of today’s offices are incorporating “lounge areas” where employees can break away from their desks and surrounding coworkers and sit for awhile in solitude amid a comfortable atmosphere with cozy seating and relative privacy.

Designated café areas – instead of standing around a giant watercooler by the supply closet – are de rigueur in today’s modern office and equipped with coffee stations, full-size refrigerators, sinks, available cutlery and tableware, plus plenty of seating space.

The importance of incorporating natural daylight is another trend that is taking hold. Recent scientific studies published on the positive effects of natural daylight on employees’ circadian rhythms and performance have led to office layouts that have more visual exposure to the outdoors. At this year’s Lightfair International, there were several companies offering faux skylights for windowless offices that not only simulate daylight, but utilize lighting controls that mimic how the sun moves in the sky throughout the day.

And then there is the growing trend of coworking spaces, popularized by WeWork in major cities all over the world. New and renovated office spaces are being designed in a way that accommodates multiple companies or groups of self-employed workers with joint amenities and yet enough privacy areas for breakout meetings.

We’ve devoted this entire issue to the latest designs and techniques being tapped for company headquarters and shared spaces. We hope they provide inspiration for your next office project.

—Linda Longo
Editorial Director