March 16, 2018

On this blog, we've tackled the various trends that have come and gone (or stayed) in the world of office furniture. One thing we've not discussed is how a company's choice in office fixtures can often reflect--or even create--the culture of that organization. 

This article got us thinking. It's true that most traditional offices are still designed with a 20th century philosophy--but just what was that philosophy anyway? If you're attempting to design a new office, it may help to understand where certain features of the 20th-century office came from and what kinds of subliminal messages they transmitted. Here were a few of its key features. 

  • Glass offices for the supervisors, so that they could keep an eye on their employees. (No trust.)
  • Isolating work spaces to encourage a productive pace and discourage distraction. (No collaboration.)
  • Symmetry in design to reflect the epitome of efficiency. (No imagination.)

Chances are some of these elements remain in your office today. If you're still sitting in a cubicle, you may be surprised to learn that it was actually designed to make you feel more free and flexible. Walls were supposed to be arranged in odd angles, with dividers set at 120 degrees to allow for easy conversation. 

But old habits die hard and soon companies began arranging cubicle walls in tight boxes, to squeeze as many employees into a space as possible. Sadly, the inventor of the cubicle system (he actually called it Action Office), Robert Probst, grew to despise what his creation had become. 

So, with this in mind, where do we go from here? How do we create an office that promotes a productive and positive culture?

1. Invest in a community table for meetings, idea generation, brainstorming and enjoying each other's company.

...and comfy chairs that encourage long talks. 

2. Make everything moveable (promote "flow" in all its various forms).  

3. Create quiet spaces for collaboration and impromptu conversation.


 Above all, know your limitations. Of course, office furniture isn't the deciding factor in your company's culture and success.

But it's one of them. 

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