An office is generally a room or other area where administrative work is done, but may also denote a position within an organization with specific duties attached to it (see officer, office-holder, official); the latter is in fact an earlier usage, office as place originally referring to the location of one's duty. When used as an adjective, the term "office" may refer to business-related tasks. In legal writing, a company or organization has offices in any place that it has an official presence, even if that presence consists of, for example, a storage silo rather than an office. An office is an architectural and design phenomenon; whether it is a small office such as a bench in the corner of a small business of extremely small size (see small office/home office), through entire floors of buildings, up to and including massive buildings dedicated entirely to one company. In modern terms an office usually refers to the location where white-collar workers are employed. As per James Stephenson,"Office is that part of business enterprise which is devoted to the direction and co-ordination of its various activities."
Offices in classical antiquity were often part of a palace complex or a large temple. The High Middle Ages (1000–1300) saw the rise of the medieval chancery, which was usually the place where most government letters were written and where laws were copied in the administration of a kingdom. With the growth of large, complex organizations in the 18th century, the first purpose-built office spaces were constructed. As the Industrial Revolution intensified in the 18th and 19th centuries, the industries of banking, rail, insurance, retail, petroleum, and telegraphy dramatically grew, and a large number of clerks were needed, and as a result more office space was required to house these activities. The time and motion study, pioneered in manufacturing by F. W. Taylor led to the “Modern Efficiency Desk” with a flat top and drawers below, designed to allow managers an easy view of the workers. However, by the midpoint of the 20th century, it became apparent that an efficient office required discretion in the control of privacy, and gradually the cubicle system evolved.
The main purpose of an office environment is to support its occupants in performing their job. Work spaces in an office are typically used for conventional office activities such as reading, writing and computer work. There are nine generic types of work space, each supporting different activities. In addition to individual cubicles, there are also meeting rooms, lounges, and spaces for support activities, such as photocopying and filing. Some offices also have a kitchen area where workers can make their lunches. There are many different ways of arranging the space in an office and whilst these vary according to function, managerial fashions and the culture of specific companies can be even more important.
While offices can be built in almost any location and in almost any building, some modern requirements for offices make this more difficult, such as requirements for light, networking, and security. The primary purpose of an office building is to provide a workplace and working environment primarily for administrative and managerial workers. These workers usually occupy set areas within the office building, and usually are provided with desks, PCs and other equipment they may need within these areas.