As the Industrial Revolution intensified in the 18th and 19th centuries, the industries of banking, rail, insurance, retail, petroleum, and telegraphy dramatically grew in size and complexity. To transact business, an increasingly large number of clerks were needed to handle order-processing, accounting, and document filing, with increasingly specialized office space required to house these activities. Most of the desks of the era were top-heavy with paper storage bins extending above the desk-work area, giving the appearance of a cubicle and offering the workers some degree of privacy.
The relatively high price of land in the central core of cities lead to the first multi-story buildings, which were limited to about 10 stories until the use of iron and steel allowed for higher structures. The first purpose-built office block was the Brunswick Building, built in Liverpool in 1841. By the end of the 19th century, larger office buildings frequently contained large glass atriums to allow light into the complex and improve air circulation.
However, by the midpoint of the 20th century, it became apparent that an efficient office required discretion in the control of privacy, which is needed to combat tedium linked to poor productivity, and to encourage creativity. In 1964, the Herman Miller (office equipment) company engaged Robert Propst, a prolific industrial designer, who came up with the concept of the Action Office which later evolved into the cubicle office furniture system.
In order to get group members to work effectively in the open office floor plan the use of island-style desks are used. The most dominant feature of the Japanese island-style office layout is that each group forms an island. Kageyu Noro, Goroh Fujimaki & Shinsuke Kishi, researchers of ergonomics in the workplace, stated,” Japanese offices have traditionally adhered to island layouts because these reflect the Japanese style of teamwork and top-down style of management.” The group leader will then sit at the prominent position and ensure productivity.
The way Japanese offices are structured allow them to be more efficient when conducting business. The efficiency at which they operate has been noticed by such companies as General Motors, Ford, Motorola, and Chrysler Company. They continue to look for other ways to be more efficient and productive with the office layout and employee productivity.
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