I started my first full time role as a teen fresh out of high school 30 years ago (holy crap!) and it’s interesting to reflect on the changes myself and my peers have experienced in the workplace since then.


Computers on every desk  - there weren’t. Outrageously expensive and primitive by today's standards, they were viewed suspiciously at best, and with outright hostility at worst.

Smoking - feel like a cigarette? Light up at your desk, no-one cares. And they’re cheap!

Fax machines - oddly this relic from yesteryear can still be found in some workplaces, probably by business that still write ‘cheques’. Replacing the paper roll and un-jamming the fax was a genuine art form few in the office could master!

Wearing a tie - compulsory for males in the office and one of the few opportunities for self-expression. In the author’s case was alternating between skinny black and red ties (shudder)

Clear linear career progression - most plans were to start at point A, work your way up the same company, receive gold watch on retirement, die.


Work/life balance - a focus for many forward-thinking businesses. An increasingly important facet for employee retention.

Career changes - total career shifts are more and more common, and portfolio careers where contractors work project based roles are increasingly popular (by choice and sometimes necessity) to keep skills relevant. The days of staying with a company for decades for ‘job security’ are over!

Diversity - still far from ideal, but its worth taking stock of how far its come. There were almost no female bosses when I started in my teens, and women's roles were largely secretarial in the office. In terms of cultural diversity, most were mono-cultural. Diversity is a topic we’re now openly talking about in the workplace and in the media.

Flat structure - yes there are still many organisations that are quite hierarchical, and perhaps function better that way – but open communication and having approachable bosses is increasingly the norm. Open plan offices with the boss in the thick of it are commonplace, rather than in a wood paneled office behind an intimidating door.

Employee Experience will be the new currency and smart businesses will look at ways to keep their stars upskilled and challenged while having productive transparent conversations about how to work together.


But as we all know some things never change, and if its 1980 or 2080 I can guarantee we’ll still be having problems with:

The air conditioning - need I say more?

Music – good luck finding common ground with that Spotify playlist!

The office refrigerator - and the battle for precious real estate therein continues.

Stacking/ emptying the dishwasher – yet to hear of a workplace where this is done.

The person that uses the last of your butter and puts the empty plastic container, lid on, back in the fridge.

Passive aggressive post-it notes - these will follow me around everywhere. Probably because I'm writing them :D

Random Tupperware parts – the missing sock of the office world. There will always be a cupboard with at least a dozen mismatched parts.

The water-cooler conversation about sports, TV and moaning about traffic. Timeless!

as usual - love to hear your thoughts and catch you next time!