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Apart from better sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water systems and public health… what have the Romans ever done for us?

Well, they did devise the concept for the office or opificium as it was then called, a word literally translated to mean ‘do work.’ Over the next three millennia opificium first became officium – the performance of a job or task – and then the word that we now know and recognise: office. 

Over more than 2,000 years and the term has changed as much as the place itself, so here’s a brief odyssey through the office – and also a glimpse of what is to come.


Late Middle Ages – 14th century onwards.

Used by Geoffrey Chaucer in the famed Canterbury Tales of 1395, as a place where business is transacted, along with merchants needing one to sell, store and record their work.


The Industrial Revolution – 18th century

Britain’s vast Empire required huge organisations to run it. The biggest of all, the East India Company moved into the first purpose-built office on Leadenhall Street in London, East India House, in 1729.


Roman 27 BC – AD 450.

Either a mobile officer carrying out a task in a bureau, or the part of a temple where important documents were kept, and where the writers of important legal documents did their work.


Middle Ages – Norman Conquest to 13th century

The place where government notices and letters were written and sent, usually from a section of court or church, a place where charters are written and where charter rolls are kept.


1911 to today.

FW Taylor, a US mechanical engineer, published a book Principles of Scientific Management in 1911, which set a vision of an open-plan space where huge numbers of workers could be seen by managers.


It’s crazy to think that with all the technological advances since 1911 – the telephone, the computer, the internet, mobile connectivity – that many still work in the way FW Taylor told us.

Perhaps it was habit, perhaps it was because of a fear of how our staff would behave or even how much they would work if they weren’t being overseen.

But now we know there is a new way. A better way, a way that will ensure your staff are inspired by their surroundings and can use the space not for the daily grind but to find inspiration.

Our view is that while agile working will be a concept adopted by many, offices will still exist as vibrant areas for collaboration and inspiration.

They will be like boutique hotels, each will be different and each will reflect the character, energy and culture of the organisation they house.

We can help you rediscover your space and transform your office from a place to ‘do work’ and into a space that truly reflects what you, as an organisation, stands for.


If your office needs it, we can do it. Intelligently, efficiently, sustainably.

Contact Us

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