Offices have changed a lot over the past 50 years. When you compare the open office layouts, lack of professional dress code and careful PC nature of today to what used to happen all those years ago there’s almost nothing left that resembles the offices many Boomers got their professional start in. Starts at 60 has travelled back into the world of working offices of the 1960s to reminisce about those things that never would be allowed today.
Other than the occasional afternoon beer, most offices aren’t too keen on bringing booze into the area let alone cigarettes. However, three-martini lunches were well regarded as the norm in the office all those years ago. And along with a tremendous amount of drinking, there was even more smoking. Most of the senior workers and big bosses would light up a cigarette everywhere they went from meetings to their personal offices. It was a far cry from the smoking bans and one-beer rules most offices have these days.
Today, most work spaces are fairly lax about what they allow their employees to wear. Business casual tends to be the go-to dress code, however back in the day it was far from that. A smart dress code was a requirement in all offices with men expected to dress in fitted, tailored suits while women wore pantyhose, classy skirts with blouses or dresses usually paired with heels.
Ah yes, the days when your morning cup of tea was such an integral part of your day that the office dedicated a whole job to it. Tea ladies were hired to roll their trollies around the office handing out steaming hot beverages for all the workers. Some lucky offices were even given a selection of delicious cakes to go along with their morning cuppa. However, this age-old tradition died out in the following decades as cafes, instant coffee machines and staff office kitchens started to gain traction.
While the job still exists today with similar duties, expectations of a secretary in the ‘60s were far from what is considered normal today. The job was almost exclusively given to women who were thought of as a man’s “office wife”. Secretary school taught future secretaries about posture and make-up as well as learning to do whatever the boss asked whether it be professional or, in some cases, private. Secretaries were expected to be incredibly skilled typists and have the required skills to take down dictations from their bosses, manage their diaries and keep their lives in order.
Making a phone call back then wasn’t as easy as simply popping in some numbers and pressing call. Back in the ‘60s switchboard operators connected the caller with the receiver as direct dialling was not very common. In big offices, women usually sat at the switchboards and used their time simply connecting calls. The technical job was vital to a well-run business.
Nowadays, people in offices are hyper-aware of their actions around co-workers. However, in the more relaxed days of the ‘60s, it’s no secret that some office spaces were much raunchier. While a slap on the behind from your boss would be grounds for a lawsuit these days, many women had to grin and bare lewd behaviour from their bosses. Likewise, a passing comment or joke was usually seen as harmless rather than cause for offence.