It might surprise you, but the office isn’t a modern concept. It’s actually been around for a lot longer than people think. You’ll find offices in almost every town or city around the world. It’s a place where people gather to work and there’s a rich history to how this came about.
Let’s start at the beginning.
What’s in a name?
The etymology of the word ‘office’ derives from the Latin word ‘officium’, which means “service” or “courtesy”.
The period before and during Ancient Rome had the first real form of an office. Palaces and temples would have small rooms where scribes could do their work in peace.
When the Roman Empire was built, rooms were created that dignitaries, registrars and chiefs of staff would reside in to fulfil their duties.
Which is pretty much the basic tenant of the office. So when we ask “What have the Romans ever done for us?”, we can say this at least.
However, it is sad to note that the office in this form was lost to time after the fall of Rome. It was only around the Middle Ages that the office began to take a familiar shape again. Known as a chancery, it referred to the partitions that divided a section of a court or church.
Around the 13th Century was the first time that the term ‘office’ was actually used. It was by Geoffrey Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales and as business ventures grew due to the world becoming much smaller through discovery, the need for offices became to rise.
From the 18th Century onwards, the office was a familiar sight, usually located close to the actual business, which in these early times were mainly oil, insurance, banking and retail industries.
Whilst in earlier office environments, people worked without direct supervision, studies showed that managers needed a more direct role when directing workers. Other innovations soon followed, including the modern flat desk and the ‘action office’ layout. This evolved into the modern cubicle form of office we know today.
Offices, in all shapes and sizes, have one function; for workers to perform their tasks as effectively and efficiently as possible.
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