The global culture of the business office

Photographer Louis Quail has a new book of photos of offices around the world – and they have a similar look:

Since 2006, Quail has photographed offices in Russia, South Africa, Germany, the U.S., the U.K., Cambodia, United Arab Emirates, Santo Domingo and China. Municipal departments, call centers, financial brokers and commodities traders all feature in Quail’s series, Desk Job

“As we have moved into the technical and information age, there has been a shift towards more office-based work,” says Quail of globalization. “Whatever our job title or geographical location, our tools and environment are becoming similar. It is quite perverse; to travel around the world to photograph inside an office that looks like its in Croydon [U.K.].”…

“The employee is defined by the few cubic meters, which exist around them. They must not just work, but live, eat, pray and occasionally sleep as if ‘chained’ to the desk in perpetuity,” says Quail…

“Companies tend to strive for straight lines and uncluttered office spaces, where as individuals have an urge to colonize and personalize,” says Quail. “In these pictures we see the tension but ultimately workers are intrinsic to the organizations they serve and are best placed to change them if they choose.”

Quail argues this is a side effect of globalization. An office in Dubai looks like an office in Australia which looks like an office in the Chicago suburbs. And he hints at the root of this homogeneity across global offices: an interest in making money within a global business network.

It would be interesting to pair these photos with a history of how the corporate office look spread around the world. Where exactly did it start, who spread it (people or corporations or organizations), and how quickly did it catch on?

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