The designation of furniture specifically for an office environment is a relatively recent development in society. As civilization advanced from agrarian to industrial and finally to the high-tech information age, the evolution of furniture for business-related tasks has advanced to meet the needs of each era. As the nature of the work we do has changed, so too have the types of furniture that we need to do that work. This has always been the case, but the pace of change has increased since the integration of computer technology into the workplace. Computers, printers, scanners, and other electronic devices for office work are not considered furniture, however. Instead, office furniture includes desks, chairs, storage cabinets and shelving, lighting, and work environment products such as cubicle dividers.
Before the industrial revolution, office furniture was just part of the overall furniture of the home, whether it was located in a business setting or a household. Consisting primarily of tables, desks, chairs, and storage cabinets this furniture was not distinguished from other household furnishings in any particular way beyond the uses to which it was made. Merchants and large institutions were the first entities to need large quantities of what we now consider office furniture. Depending on the wealth of a merchant, the desk and chair he used were more or less elaborate pieces of furniture that were there to impress visitors as much as to store papers and ledgers. As society moved increasingly toward industrialization the massing of people into larger and larger entities led to increased needs for monitoring such tasks as inventory control, accounting, and staffing. Organizations grew, the administrative tasks associated with managing them grew, and the numbers employed in carrying out these administrative tasks grew.