From Office Spaces to Workwear, See How the World of Work Has Changed Through the Years (2022)

From Office Spaces to Workwear, See How the World of Work Has Changed Through the Years (1)

Ch-ch-changes is the theme song for work in 2022, thanks, in part, to the pandemic. The traditional work world in the U.S. has been upended—from where we work and what we wear to how many hours we log. Here’s a Parade report on what’s changed and how.

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Office Space, Then & Now

61%:That’s how many workers who have a workplace outside the home choose to work from home instead.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the first open office space, the Administration Building for SC Johnson Wax in Racine, Wisconsin, which opened in 1939. The building’s great room covered half an acre, with soaring ceilings, skylights, a forest of columns that bloomed into circles against the ceiling, and modular furniture, including oval desks, tables and rolling file carts. (The building is still in use today.) The room housed the secretarial pool, with offices for senior staff around the perimeter.

By the 1960s, businesses wanted more privacy for workers, but also wanted to fit as many people as possible into spaces. In 1968, the Herman Miller Research Corporation introduced the “Action Office,” a system that included flexible cubicles that gave workers some privacy but still allowed for lots of interaction. It was colorful (green, blue, navy, yellow) and included standing desks with footrests, moveable display surfaces and other revolutionary (for the time) touches. But as other companies copied the Action Office, it became less colorful and more like a network of functional gray cubicles. As high-tech companies began to proliferate in the 2000s, so did multipurpose workspaces, with non-assigned seating, designated lounge areas, community tables and ever-changing layouts.

Enter work-from-home life. A Pew Research survey in January found that 61 percent of workers who have a workplace outside the home are choosing to work from home instead. “People need to have a very compelling reason to come into the office now,” says architect John Campbell, who just retired as president of FCA, an architecture, planning and interior design firm. As a result, workplaces are transforming. What they’ll feature:

Conference rooms sans conference tables:“We had conference tables because people were taking notes and talking across the table,” says Campbell. “Now, more often than not, they’re looking at a screen.”

Fewer hard-walled spaces: Some rooms—conference rooms, pantries—will be enclosed, but offices will include flexible space dividers like credenzas with open shelves. “You’ll have certain fixed elements, then a dance floor for the other furniture,” Campbell says.

Less formal furniture: Comfy armchairs for long meetings, kitchen-table-like desks for co-working and areas with softer seating and lower light for a more home-like feel.

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Improved ventilation and acoustics: Cleaner air and better sound allows for better collaboration with remote workers.

No assigned seating:Until the pandemic, most workers wanted their own desk or office. But “people realized they don’t have to be so territorial about office space.” Now, “the whole office is your space,” Campbell says. “It’s like home; you do different activities in different rooms in your home. Some are open, some are more private. Think of the office as an extension of that.”

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Work Tools, Then & Now

Fax Machines:In 2000, businesses sent urgent documents back and forth via fax, a machine that transmitted text or graphics from a scanner through a phone line to a printer. Fax machines were a ubiquitous part of office life for more than 30 years—some 25,000 fax machines graced offices in 1970. They cost $18,000, weighed 100 pounds and took six minutes to transmit one page, according to the Los Angeles Times. By 1991, home fax machines cost as little as $500, weighed 15 to 20 pounds, could send a page in 20 seconds or less, and some 3 million whirred and beeped in homes and offices across the U.S. The internet and email rendered fax machines obsolete by the early 2000s; now you can email documents in a second.

Rolodex:In 1956, office supply company Zephyr American patented the Rolodex, a rolling index of alphabetized cards for keeping track of all your business contacts. It was better than an address book because you could simply remove and toss outdated contacts and add new ones without running out of space. Now, contacts are stored on mobile phones, sim cards, computers and in the cloud. You can still buy a Rolodex, though; Amazon offers Rolodexes for as low as $22—refill cards are available too. And the Smithsonian museum has a Rolodex in its collection, preserved for posterity.

Computers:Even Apple’s most powerful laptop today (the $3,499 16-inch MacBook Pro Max) weighs less than 5 pounds. The first personal computer—purchased mostly by hobbyists—was the Altair 8800, which weighed 65 pounds. (You could buy a complete kit to assemble your own for $439: “If you can handle a soldering iron and follow simple instructions, you can build a computer,” promised a 1975 Altair ad in Popular Electronics.) IBM introduced its first PC in 1981, at a cost of $1,565. It weighed 25 pounds and included a disk drive. Apple introduced the Lisa PC in 1983, which flopped due to its cost ($9,995!), followed by the 1984 Apple Macintosh ($2,495) and finally, in 1989, the Macintosh Portable (cost: $6,500; weight: 16 pounds).

Watercoolers: When Luther Haws created a portable water-dispensing machine in 1938, the office watercooler—a spot where employees gathered to gossip and brainstorm—was born. It wasn’t long before “watercooler talk” entered the vernacular, and studies revealed that informal gatherings around watercoolers or coffee increased worker productivity by 10 to 15 percent. Now: Apps like WaterCooler connect co-workers virtually for informal conversations.

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Working Hours, Then & Now

+3 hours:That’s how many additional hours per day U.S. workers logged in 2020 as they tried to figure out how to work remotely.

If it feels like you’re working more hours than Americans did in the past, you’re partially right. In 1880, when the government first began tracking worker hours, the average full-time manufacturing employee logged about 62 hours a week. Throughout the early 1900s, labor unions pushed for shorter workweeks, and in 1926 automotive titan Henry Ford mandated a standard five-day, 40-hour workweek for all employees. In 1938, Congress passed the Fair Labor Standards Act, limiting the workweek to 44 hours; an amendment in 1940 cut it to 40 hours, where it remained enshrined for decades.

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Enter the global pandemic of 2020, when U.S. workers logged an additional three hours per day on the job as they attempted to figure out how to work remotely. In early 2021, U.S. workers were still working an additional 2.5 hours per day, according to data from NordVPN.

Commuting, Then & Now

19%–65%:That’s how much the number of hours spent commuting plummeted in the top major urban areas during the pandemic when workers stayed home.

Average one-way commute time in the U.S.:

  • 1980: 21.7 minutes
  • 1990: 22.4
  • 2000: 25.5
  • 2013: 25.8
  • 2019: 27.6

While the incremental increases in commute times over the decades seem small, consider this: That 21.7-minutes-each-way commute in 1980 adds up to 181 hours a year (assuming two weeks off for vacation). The fact that it took 6 minutes longer in 2019 ate up 230 hours a year—a difference of 49 hours, or three full days of time. One upside to the pandemic: Commute times and traffic congestion plummeted. In one study, the number of hours lost in congestion during peak commute periods dropped by anywhere from 19 percent to 65 percent in the top 20 major urban areas in the U.S.

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A Dying Job

Then: Furriers were all-around craftsmen who could cut furs, operate a sewing machine and finish a garment. In 1949, furriers working in department stores and retail shops in NYC made a minimum $75 per week. By 1989, total retail sales for furs in the U.S. reached a record $1.9 billion, and furrier Jerry Sorbara told Business Insider he made more than $400,000 in a single day in 1986. Now: Furriers are no longer listed in the Occupational Outlook Handbook—the number of mink killed for their fur dropped by almost 50 percent and an amendment was recently passed in the House of Representatives to ban mink farming in the U.S.

Work Wear, Then & Now

31%: That’s how many respondents would take a 10 percent pay cut rather than dress up for work every day, according to a survey by online personal styling service Stitch Fix.

From Office Spaces to Workwear, See How the World of Work Has Changed Through the Years (5)

’50s: Dark-colored suits, white shirts, dark ties and white pocket squares. Think Humphrey Bogart and William Holden in 1954’s Sabrina.

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’60s: Ties, lapels and pants were all slim (à la the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964).

From Office Spaces to Workwear, See How the World of Work Has Changed Through the Years (7)

’70s: John Travolta in 1977’s Saturday Night Fever captured the spirit of the decade with wide lapels and polyester.

From Office Spaces to Workwear, See How the World of Work Has Changed Through the Years (8)

’80s: Power suits roared in, with broad shoulders, pinstripes and double-breasted jackets. (Think Diane Keaton as J.C. Wiatt in 1987’s Baby Boom.)

From Office Spaces to Workwear, See How the World of Work Has Changed Through the Years (9)

’90s-2000s: Business casual became just casual as more workers embraced the laid-back turtleneck style of Silicon Valley’s Steve Jobs and Steve Kornacki’s MSNBC online uniform of khakis, button-down shirts and no tie.

In the new millennium, suits lost their luster. Investment bank JP Morgan Chase adopted a business casual dress code in 2016, as did consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. When the pandemic shuttered offices in early 2020, workers shed suits for sweatpants overnight, and Brooks Brothers, makers of business suits for men and women, filed for bankruptcy in July 2020, followed by Tailored Brands (parent company of Men’s Warehouse, Jos. A Bank and others) a month later. Before the pandemic, 32 percent of workers surveyed by the NPD Group said they wore “casual” clothes to the office; now 40 percent dress casually for in-person work.

“We’re starting to see real change in how we think about dress codes and what getting dressed up even means,” says NPD apparel analyst Maria Rugolo. “There’s a transition to ‘work casual’ being actually casual and not ‘business casual.’”

Thanks to the plethora of pandemic-delayed weddings and hybrid in-office work, suits are slowly coming back, but the future of workwear is uncertain.

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FAQs

When did people start working in offices? ›

The first office

There is evidence to suggest that the first offices originated in ancient Rome as spaces where official work was conducted and that similar spaces existed in some form throughout the ages. However, it wasn't until the 18th Century that dedicated office buildings began to be created.

What is the history of office? ›

The english word office appeared first in 1395, referring to a “place where business is transacted” but the word has much older roots. It stems from the latin word officium, which didn't necessary refer to a specific place but rather a bureau in the sense of staff, or the more abstract meaning of formal position.

When was the first office building built? ›

The Old Admiralty (Ripley Building), built in 1726, was the first purpose-built office building; many of the Royal Navy's smaller offices were consolidated into Somerset House as the first purpose-built office block, throughout the 1770s.

What is an office Wikipedia? ›

An office is a space where an organization's employees perform administrative work in order to support and realize objects and goals of the organization.

How is the modern workforce different from that of the past? ›

Employees were more often encouraged to work independently and stay on focus at all times, much different to the modern workplace where collaboration is encouraged. Workplaces were a lot less tech orientated – most business communication took place over landlines and in person and documents were all hard copies.

What is the difference between traditional office and modern office? ›

Modern office designs tend to have open-plan layouts and contemporary interiors, whereas traditional offices are usually closed-plan and feature old-fashioned decor.

What is workplace evolution? ›

Though there are many examples of workplace evolution, we can divide the most important changes into four main categories: technology, workplace environment, employee satisfaction, and employee wellness. BambooHR conducted a study that examined how the workplace has changed in these four areas.

What is important in an office environment? ›

Working in an attractive, clean office can have huge effects on your office environment. A right light, optimal temperature, some warm colorful posters, and a few potted plants can make big differences in productivity and positivity.

What should a modern office have? ›

Modern offices usually have a combination of the following characteristics:
  • Varied workspaces (coworking spaces, “hot desks”)
  • Use of color psychology.
  • Natural and eco-friendly elements.
  • Ergonomic furniture.
  • Integrated technology.
  • Modern decor (like artful light fixtures or attractive wall coverings)

What is modern office? ›

What is a modern office? A modern office is often defined by the people and the culture of the business, as well as the aesthetics. In terms of the office space itself, a modern office is likely to comprise of light/white décor, large spaces and minimal furniture – creating a modernistic approach.

What do you mean by office environment? ›

Maintaining a healthy office environment requires attention to chemical hazards, equipment and work station design, physical environment (temperature, humidity, light, noise, ventilation, and space), task design, psychological factors (personal interactions, work pace, job control) and sometimes, chemical or other ...

What are the 5 basic activities of office management? ›

At the most fundamental level, management is a discipline that consists of a set of five general functions: planning, organizing, staffing, leading and controlling. These five functions are part of a body of practices and theories on how to be a successful manager.

What are the 4 elements of office management? ›

Originally identified by Henri Fayol as five elements, there are now four commonly accepted functions of management that encompass these necessary skills: planning, organizing, leading, and controlling. 1 Consider what each of these functions entails, as well as how each may look in action.

What is importance of office management? ›

Office management helps to maintain a close relationship between the different departments and people. It regularly supplies order, command, and instruction to different people. It performs various functions like planning, organising, controlling, staffing, supervising, motivating and effective leadership.

How is the modern workplace changing? ›

The modern workplace environment has a blended workforce, is becoming more responsive to problems, and less tied down to physical locations. Employees now use modern collaborative software like Skype and Google Docs to communicate more effectively with their colleagues around the world in real time.

What are changes in the workplace? ›

What is change in the workplace? In the workplace, change is anything that interjects with previous work routines, team members, job roles or specific job duties.

What are the benefits of a modern workplace? ›

Modern Workplace: Benefits and Challenges
  • Faster and more reliable communication. The modern workplace improves our ability to communicate. ...
  • Enhanced efficiency and productivity. ...
  • Lower costs; Higher profits. ...
  • Greater transparency and interconnected operations. ...
  • Improved security.
22 Mar 2021

What is a traditional work space? ›

A traditional office is a private office space dedicated to one business. It usually means one business leasing one to multiple floors, or a whole building. They can be setup exactly to your specifications to suit your business's needs.

What is traditional workplace? ›

1. Meaning. A traditional workspace is a place or office with a physical location, usually in the headquarter or building owned by the company where employees work. On the other hand, remote work is the modern setup where employees work remotely in their home offices.

What have been the most significant changes in working life in the last 10 20 years? ›

By far, the majority of responses cited technology advancements, telecommuting, casual working environments and dress codes as the most significant changes to the workplace in the last 20 years.

How has technology changed the workplace explain? ›

Thanks to smartphones, chat apps, and industry-specific social networking sites, communication in the workplace has become fast, collaborative, more deliberate, and unified. Technology allows employees to engage in important work even when outside the office, and keep in touch with coworkers, even face-to-face.

How will work change in the next 10 years? ›

Companies will start to increase the functions of smart machines, software, apps and avatars. Employees will develop personal toolkits of virtual doppelgangers — virtual counterparts, with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) software and devices that are more accessible to their personal or team-based activities.

What does a positive work environment look like? ›

“Positive” work environments can be defined as those workplaces where there is trust, cooperation, safety, risk-taking support, accountability, and equity. There are some abstract concepts when thinking about a positive work environment. You want to strive for shared purpose, values, and trust.

How do you improve work culture? ›

7 Powerful Practices to Improve Workplace Culture
  1. Build strong employee relationships. ...
  2. Connect people to a purpose. ...
  3. Encourage frequent employee recognition. ...
  4. Create positive employee experiences. ...
  5. Open up transparency and communication. ...
  6. Give teams the autonomy they seek. ...
  7. Schedule regular and meaningful one-to-ones.

How do you develop a good work environment? ›

6 simple ways to foster a positive hybrid work environment
  1. Prioritise onboarding and training.
  2. Help your employees find a comfortable work environment.
  3. Conduct regular check-ins.
  4. Encourage team collaboration and communication.
  5. Develop a strong workplace culture.
  6. Facilitate opportunities for learning.

What are the 4 types of office? ›

The different office types
  • Private Office.
  • Coworking Desk.
  • Virtual Office.
  • Enterprise Office.

What are the two main types of offices? ›

Basically there are two types of office and they are: Big or large office. Small office.

What is the main aim of business office? ›

It helps to increase the profit of any business organization. Office layout provides comfort to the employees in their work by creating a systematic layout of departments and physical facilities.

What should I consider in new office space? ›

8 Things to Consider When Looking for Commercial Office Space
  • Security and Safety. ...
  • Building Accessibility. ...
  • Office Accessibility. ...
  • Competitor Presence. ...
  • The Work Environment. ...
  • Proximity to Amenities. ...
  • Technology Compatibility. ...
  • Eco-friendly Features.
21 Mar 2018

What are the modern trends of an office function? ›

Current trends in office management include flexible spaces, integrated tools, and automated systems. These features all work together to create a thriving hybrid workplace. Employees feel heard and empowered, and workplace managers have the tools and data they need to continue improving the workplace experience.

What are the six functions of an office? ›

Below are the six basic functions of an office:
  • Giving information.
  • Receiving information.
  • Recording information.
  • Arranging information.
  • Processing information.
  • Storing or keeping information.

How do I make my office space look fun professionally? ›

6 tips for adding a sense of playfulness to your office space
  1. Encourage your team to add personal items to their workspaces. ...
  2. Be clever with color. ...
  3. Create a relaxed break area. ...
  4. Celebrate nature. ...
  5. Utilize wall space. ...
  6. Stock up a bookshelf. ...
  7. Create clear distinctions between break and work areas. ...
  8. Don't let go of your dress code.
31 Oct 2019

What is most important in a work environment? ›

Aspects such as collaboration, willingness to work as a team, inclusiveness, and friendliness are meaningful for the working environment. The level of support employees receive from their directors and peers is an essential factor that directly influences their working environment.

What is an example of a work environment? ›

A company's culture is also part of a work environment. For instance, some companies have a formal culture and expect workers to dress in suitable work attire and follow strict protocols, whereas others allow employees to dress more casually and grant them more freedom in the execution of their duties.

What is most important in the workplace? ›

Our Findings. The most important workplace values for full-time employees are fair pay (55%) and fair treatment (54%). Over half of employees ranked these values as first- or second-most important among other values.

Who invented the office? ›

The Office is a mockumentary sitcom created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, first made in United Kingdom, then Germany, and subsequently United States.

How did modern theorists describe the office? ›

Later, modern theorists understood the office as a factory-like environment.

What is workplace evolution? ›

Though there are many examples of workplace evolution, we can divide the most important changes into four main categories: technology, workplace environment, employee satisfaction, and employee wellness. BambooHR conducted a study that examined how the workplace has changed in these four areas.

What are the types of offices? ›

The different office types
  • Private Office.
  • Coworking Desk.
  • Virtual Office.
  • Enterprise Office.

How did office end? ›

Phyllis is glad she can remember everything everyone did. Jim tearfully talks about seeing his life story of finding love and family, and how despite the often boring and frustrating work, he owes everything he has to this job. Pam ends the series by stating that "there's a lot of beauty in ordinary things.

What are the modern trends of an office function? ›

Current trends in office management include flexible spaces, integrated tools, and automated systems. These features all work together to create a thriving hybrid workplace. Employees feel heard and empowered, and workplace managers have the tools and data they need to continue improving the workplace experience.

What are the benefits of modern office? ›

Allows For Innovation And Reinvention

With the ability to boost productivity, improve morale and increase the quality of life, a modern office can reinvent your business. Considering how quickly things can shift in the business world, having an office and employees who can change as per the needs is essential.

What are changes in the workplace? ›

What is change in the workplace? In the workplace, change is anything that interjects with previous work routines, team members, job roles or specific job duties.

What are changes in working condition? ›

Substantial changes in working conditions are those that can affect workers both individually and collectively. In both cases, the company can carry out modifications of the working conditions when there are economic, technical, organizational or production reasons.

What have been the most significant changes in working life in the last 10 20 years? ›

By far, the majority of responses cited technology advancements, telecommuting, casual working environments and dress codes as the most significant changes to the workplace in the last 20 years.

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