The traditional office is still alive and well. However, along with it a number of alternative office configurations developed over the latter part of the 20th century. While many workers choose to work from home, those workers who do make the daily commute into the office are often confronted with working environments unknown to their grandparents or even to their parents.
The traditional office layout involves offices with doors and walls. Office sizes may be larger or smaller, depending on the status of the office holder. The office furniture also indicates the position of the office occupant in the office hierarchy. Lower level workers, such as support staff, often sit at desks with or without partitions outside the traditional office, for the convenience of the office occupant. Top officers in the company usually occupy the proverbial corner office, with two window exposures, increased privacy and often much larger square footage.
Many companies with a large number of middle-management level workers place those workers in cubicle farms, or partitioned rows of spaces with dividers which may or may not reach the ceiling. The rows of partitioned spaces are typically separated by aisles for negotiation by the workers to their cubicles and for communication with one another. Cubicles usually have a desk with computer and a private phone line. Printers are often shared. A single worker usually occupies a cubicle, however sometimes two or three workers share a single cubicle.
Creative environments, such as design companies, often use open-plan to facilitate easy communication among the members of the staff. Staff members may or may not have individual desks, computers or telephones in an open-plan office. Conference rooms for meetings or visitors are often situated along the outer walls of the open plan office space.
"Hot Desk" and Incubator Office Plans
A phenomenon of the late 20th century is the incubator office environment. Incubators house a number of workers, who may or may not be involved in the same or even related companies or ventures. In an incubator, office workers have their own assigned space, which may be in an enclosed office or within an open-office plan. With a "hot desk" arrangement, two or more workers share office space at different times of the day or on different days of the week. Incubators and "hot desk" arrangements maximise the number of people who can use a given office space.
Short-Term Office Rentals
Another fairly new development are short term office rentals. These rentals range from daily rentals to month-to-month leases and longer terms. Short-term rentals are usually fully equipped, not just with office furniture, but also with Internet and fax machines, support staff and voice mail systems. They are available for small businesses and travelling executives. A variation on short-term office rentals are virtual offices, which allow professionals who work from home to establish a professional presence, complete with answering service.