How offices have changed over the years

Business Insights

Every industry faces changes, and naturally, every business adapts. So as a company at the forefront of developing needs and in the face of technological advancements, it’s no surprise that office design experts Meridian Interiors have really seen it all!

After recently celebrating its 20 year anniversary and two decades in the business of office design and workplace needs, the team have shared the most common and popular office changes of the last 20 years.

Here are a list of the changing features of offices over the past few decades:

    1. Cubicles and individual offices

    In the 1980s and 90s, having lots of filing cabinets and chunky furniture areas was common due to huge amounts of paperwork. Desks had to be home to both employees and fax machines, and there were stricter dress codes and business hours. Offices used to have to accommodate this set up and hardware space and were clunkier in design as a result, and the senior team usually sat away from other employees or in their own individual offices.

    2. Open plan designs

    From the 90s onwards, open plan became the office trend. With improved collaboration between departments and a heightened awareness to the social aspect of office life, canteens and larger desk spaces (they still had to hold big computer screens!) were more common.

    3. Co-working spaces and hot desking

    From the millennium, offices again adapted. When the great crash of the millenium bug did not arrive, office workers went back to a more flexible and agile approach to working. Improved technology and greater reliance on it meant people could actually work from office coffee shops or off-site. Attracting staff and new employees leant heavily on cool breakout areas and fluid desk systems. Gone were the days when you had your spot, as office workers began to use thinner screens and laptops, meaning they could sit in rows of desks with divided screens for privacy.

    4. Glass partitioning

    And then there was light! From 2005 onwards, we saw an increase in glass partitioning. To start with, half height glazing was used, then fully glazed partitioning, and later doors came into fashion. Not only did this improve natural light flow through workspaces, but a new attitude was forming to hierarchy, meaning separation was less common in the workplace for transparency and efficiency.

    5. Hybrid working

    Hybrid working really took off from 2015 onwards, but has been accelerated in the last two years due to the pandemic. Businesses no longer need space for every single employee; instead there is a focus on offering different environments in the one workplace, to reflect different employees’ needs. The office today is much more casual, both in design and its workers; with a relaxed, flexible and accessible attitude, due to technological advancements. Meeting areas for video calls with remote colleagues are essential, and ergonomic furniture is more popular for collaborative spaces, as an emphasis is placed on wellbeing and practicality.

Paul Dawson, director at Meridian Interiors comments:

"Meridian Interiors is immensely proud to have reached an incredible milestone, having reached our 20th year of trading! Since 1991, we have delivered over 2000 projects, changing the landscape of many clients’ working environments. We have been tasked to complete office fit-outs and office interior refurbishments around the whole of the UK and even overseas in Gibraltar! I personally have fond memories of delivering some incredible projects over the past 20 years, with a fantastic team at my side.

We are indebted to our many clients, supply chain and contractors who have remained loyal to us throughout this period, as we now continue to strive forward, providing the same quality, customer service and dedication in everything we do.”

For more information on office design, inspiration and advice, please visit: