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Worldesign Congress 1985 to the Action Office system as the world's most significant industrial design for the years


What's In It For You

Action Office System

Product Story

Evolution and intelligent design. The original open-plan office system continues to change and adapt to the ongoing evolutions in today's workplaces. But some things should never change, and the fundamental Action Office design principles still apply: space-saving benefits, durability, design options, and interchangeable components. Action Office continues to provide economic value by virtue of simple specification, installation, configuration, management, and updating. This versatile, hard-working system truly preserves your investment.

Versatile Dependability

Naming the system "Action" was no arbitrary decision. When Robert Propst designed the system, he was aware that the office environment was changing and required a system that provided easy and ongoing revision.

No panel system is easier or quicker to install and reconfigure as you work to balance individual work with collaboration in your workspace: You can reconfigure a traditional, enclosed workspace and make it into a more open, collaborative work area just by removing some components and adding others.

Action Office offers so many application choices—collaborative spaces, office landscapes with varying heights and translucencies, traditional workspaces, benching and touchdown spaces. It also works well with components from other systems. With 90- and 120-degree planning available, Action Office can take the shape that helps people work at their best and helps organizations use floor space most efficiently. The extensive variety of panel sizes, shapes, and surface treatments adapt to whatever kind of workspace you want to create.

And the concise Action Office vocabulary simplifies ordering, speeds installation, and streamlines inventory control.

Action Office System

A Fresh Approach

An evolving system that is never obsolete. Components manufactured today work just fine with the original generation of Action Office products. New product advances refine the appearance and enhance the system's performance. The scale is lightened and given a clean, inviting look with new approaches. A thin base option (with quick-connect base power) installs with no tools. Enhanced glazed panels (glazed, partial-glazed, stacking glass, and door) have a clean aesthetic with minimized glazing frames and trim, and the infill can be clear or opal. Refined trim reduces top-cap scale, makes cleaner lines, and creates a cohesive look.

Action Office System

Built to Last

Action Office is a durable, well-built system that will provide a solid return on investment for your business.

Full-length, rigid steel connectors are the key to Action Office's strength and durability; easy, fast installation and reconfiguration require just two tools and one person. The connectors align the panels automatically, and the steel construction ensures that they hold up over time, even with repeated reconfiguration.

The stress-skin construction allows the hard-working panels to meet or exceed industry requirements for strength and durability.

Action Office System


Action Office has been proven to be practical and economical over four decades of use. Its durability, low initial cost, and ability to be reconfigured and updated easily add up to savings as you maintain an effective office space.

Herman Miller supports Action Office furniture with a 12-year/3-shift warranty and a continuing commitment to research and improvement.

High-Tech Support

Action Office has evolved to handle today's office technology. There's plenty of cable capacity. Up to 49 Category 5e or 38 Category 6 4-pair UTP cables at a 60 percent fill rate in the powered thin base; in the traditional powered base, 83 Category 5e and 65 Category 6 cables; without power in the thin base, 96 Category 5e or 134 Category 6 cables; in the traditional non-powered base, 173 Category 5e or 75 Category 6 cables; in the powered vertical cable management panel, 50 Category 5e or 39 Category 6 cables.

High-powered: 4-circuit, 8-wire system with 1 dedicated circuit; combinations include 3 general circuits and 1 dedicated circuit, 2 general and 2 isolated, or 1 general and 3 isolated.

Lay-in cabling capability avoids extra work and reduces the potential for damage that can occur during cable threading.

A vertical cable management panel provides power and data access at work surface level.

Action Office System


You might be surprised at how green a product developed in the 1960s, when "green" signified the color you wore on St. Patrick's Day, can be. The typical Action Office setup is made of 43% recycled content and is up to 34% recyclable at the end of its useful life.

Action Office components are made with sustainable materials: powder coating on all metal parts, and no VOCs; water-based stains, and no solvents; and sustainable woods only from managed forest resources, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Action Office features an environmentally sensitive design, which adheres to Herman Miller’s Design for the Environment criteria.

Design Story

Once a graphic artist and sculptor, Robert Propst became president of Herman Miller Research Corp. in 1960. His goal was to investigate how the world of work operated, and he concluded, sadly, that "today's office is a wasteland. It saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment. It is the daily scene of unfulfilled intentions and failed effort." In his landmark book The Office: A Facility Based on Change, he wrote, "We find ourselves now with office forms created for a way of life substantially dead and gone."

Propst's answer to this unhappy situation was the Action Office system, introduced by Herman Miller in 1968. It was the world's first open-plan office system—a bold departure from the era's fixed chairs, fixed desks, and fixed assumptions of what office furniture should be. With the Action Office system, Propst assailed traditional, complacent office design with a concept that put inflexible forms aside in favor of a concept that fit the way people really worked. Action Office comprised components that could be combined and recombined to become whatever an office needed to be over time. Designer Jack Kelley worked side by side with Propst throughout the 1960s and early 1970s and played a pivotal role in the design of many Action Office components.

Action Office transformed workplaces around the world, as well as Herman Miller and the entire office furniture industry, which scrambled to copy it. It has stood the test of time because it evolves as office dynamics change. Herman Miller has regularly enhanced and updated it to accommodate greater technology requirements, meet the changing needs of workers, and support new work processes.