The office has transformed dramatically since the 1970’s: in layout, in culture and in technology. It was a decade that saw the worker become more individualistic, with office design becoming more ergonomic and also getting some ‘pop’ in colour. The computer was at the start of its journey that would change everything, and therefore so were the working processes. Below we take a look back at the top trends of the 70’s office, to see just how far it has come.
Hierarchy: rigid organisational structures were in place that related to pay, responsibility and authority. It was a political pyramid that employees had to work through.
Formal dress code: not just for the city bankers, formal dress was expected every day of the week, including suits, ties, and formal shoes. Dress down Friday’s were not on the agenda!
Computers: computer monitors were a clunky box-like item. A typical computer would feature basic word processing functionalities as well as the first ever spreadsheet.
Telephones: the mobile phone didn’t hit commercial use until the 80’s and so office phones were either a rotary dial or push button phone wired to the wall, restricting usage to inside the office.
Office layouts: a business either had an open-plan office with rows of workers, or individual cubicles known as ‘cube farms’. The corner office or desk was also a sign of high status, with the benefits of more space, a closing door, and occasionally two windows.
Office furniture: the first ergonomic office chair was established with the user’s physical health and comfort in mind. In addition to this, pen holders, intercoms, in-trays, desk blotters and ashtrays were all desk essentials of the bygone era.
Legislations: the Equal Pay Act (1970) came into place after women noticed men were being paid 15% more for doing the same work. This year also enforced that children had to stay in school until 16 years old.
Smoking: inside, outside, everywhere. A common occurrence was for the rubbish bins to get caught on fire! Besides this, some office windows didn’t open which meant fresh air was in extremely short supply.
In summary, a lot has changed in the workplace in the almost 50 years since the 70’s. We couldn’t imagine our job today without a computer, mobile, the internet, email… So it really was a stark contrast in this not-so-long-ago generation.