BusinessThe evolution of office space

Jessica GalangNovember 21, 20195 min

The modern office space has gone through many changes in the past century; sometimes brand new, and sometimes a refurbishment of something already done. In fact, the cubicle may have been used by medieval monks on manuscript writing.

Technology and our ideas of an efficient work day has come a long way since then, allowing for new and interesting office design cases, including open concept, co-working and green buildings. In all cases throughout history, though, these iterations were designed to meet specific goals, whether it was encouraging collaboration or efficiency. Here’s a roundup of the new and old office spaces.

The open concept space

The first open concept office space was actually established in 1936, when Frank Lloyd Wright designed an open-plan office space for SC Johnson. By the 1960s, the first appearances of the cubicle would make an appearance with low dividers between offices, and by the 1980s the cubicle farm dominated the modern offices.

In recent years, open concept office spaces inspired by tech startups have recently come back in a big way. Co-working spaces have also brought the idea of an open concept space to a new level. Co-working spaces like WeWork allow different companies and teams to share an office space, often with perks like free coffee, bookable meeting rooms and flexible pricing. Rather than just collaborating with internal teams, those in co-working spaces can meet new people from other walks of life who might be going through the same company challenges.

Working from home

It’s unclear how much of the current Canadian workforce includes gig economy workers, but there has been an undeniable rise in freelancers working from home, meaning that expectations for showing up at an office have also changed. Freelancers can run full businesses—including accounting, invoicing and working—all from their phone and laptop, thanks to the rise of new platforms catered to small business owners. Meanwhile, startups have adopted flexible schedule policies and allow employees to work from home.

Another option for freelance workers: flexible office spaces. There are co-working spaces specifically targeted to freelancers looking for a workspace with like-minded business owners, minus the overhead, while some co-working spaces targeting large teams can make hot desks available for drop-in freelancers.

Green buildings

As more people adopt sustainability and green living practices in their own daily lives, so too have office spaces. These days, office spaces can include a garden rooftop and indoor biowalls that improve air quality, both of which also improve employee wellness. At the same time, companies might invest in solar panels and wind turbines—two potentially initial costly endeavours, but those that can save in the long term.

Jessica Galang

Jessica Galang is a tech journalist who has been tracking the Canadian tech ecosystem for the last several years. In the past, she was news editor at BetaKit and a reporter at The Logic, interviewing hundreds of entrepreneurs in emerging industries.

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