3 Fundamental Ways the Office has Changed since the 1700s

This post is a promotional feature in association with British Gas.

This post is a promotional feature in association with British Gas.


As we evolved, so did our office spaces. With every advancement, we wanted the place we spent our day in to reflect our needs as well as technological advancements to do work more efficiently. To give an even more unobstructed view of how our office spaces looked, British Gas has created an infographic starting in the 1700s up to the present day — showing our office evolution and that even in the 21st-century change is always afoot.  

The idea of offices spaces was first introduced back in ancient Rome as well as other cities throughout the ages. Looking at the British Empire, around 1726, they built The Old Admiralty Office. It functioned as a paperwork processing office for the Royal Navy. This space, although quite old is still used today – with meetings still being held in the infamous Admiralty Board Room. 

The Old Admiralty Office

The Old Admiralty Office

As more and more businesses popped up around the world, the need for an office space grew. It was more than just somewhere to work, it showed professionalism and seriousness in business.

 Starting in the 1700s here are six ways the office has changed up to the present day:

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Technological Advancement

Since the construction of the first offices, people would spend long hours logging information onto paper and specifically notebooks for accounting purposes. Until around 150 years later with the invention of the typewriter, which allowed more efficient use of time, tidier work and paid a lot more money. Invented by Christopher Latham Sholes, the typewriter became the staple of all offices and meant that correspondences were more precise and faster. Leap forward to the invention of the first telephone – allowing businesses to communicate long distances reducing the use of telegrams and letters during business negotiations. Opening up a plethora of opportunities, and many companies thrived. 

Now, imagine no computers in your office? That was the norm before the invention of the first computer; which took up almost half of some single offices today and were only really able to be bought by large companies with the finance to not only purchase one but room to store one. Although there was no internet, it made what was usually done by hand that much faster.

Looking at the vast technological advancements since then, one can only imagine the technology we will be using in 20 years. 

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Women joined the Workforce

You wouldn’t believe it now, but until around 1914 women were not allowed to work. The introduction of women into the office workplace was one of absolute need as it was during the horrors of the First World War. Due to the labour shortage, women began to take up roles in the Home Front as typists. It didn’t stop there as the shortage of workers continued into the 1920’s, and more and more women took up roles across various industries. During the Second World War, even more, women left their homes and took up jobs permanently in the workforce. 

Having more women as typists also shaped the way technology evolved. For instance, the typewriter was modified to suit a women’s fingers. In the present day, women work in all sectors, including technology, medicine, construction, parliament, etc. while shedding the barriers and creating an equal playing field.

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Privacy and the Office Cubicles

The way we use our office space affects how we communicate and work together, so paying attention to office layouts were important in the 1980s. Arrangements did differ based on each business, as some preferred separation and others wanted a more cohesive workspace. During The Great War companies realised that it was essential to reduce segregation and have managers on the same floor to boost productivity, giving way to the popularity of open plan offices.

Although open plan spaces grew in popularity, it wasn’t until the turn of the millennium that it became clear that separation stifled creativity at work. 

As we look to the future, more and more of us are choosing to work from home. With the increase in AI and smarter technology, we will move away from offices, and remote working will most certainly become the norm.

The evolution of our office spaces will always be impacted by technology, changing the way we work, our efficiency, equality and creativity. It’s difficult to imagine walking into an office that has no computers, telephones or the presence of gender diversity. I will be looking forward to the future in anticipation of what it will look like when remote working and AI truly come to the forefront of our daily lives.