Marky Mark, Dial-Up, & Windbreakers: The Work Life of a '90s Employee

Marky Mark, Dial-Up, & Windbreakers: How the '90s Workplace Differs from the Modern Office

What do Beanie Babies, N’Sync’s swoon-worthy frosted tips, and the widespread use of Clueless’s infamous ‘As if’ all have in common? Besides making me feel nostalgic, they’re all staples of the ‘90s era. In addition to Oreo O's, Pulp Fiction, and beepers, the decade also experienced some noteworthy economic prosperity. Dude, that’s hella sweet. Between 1992 and 1999, the U.S. economy saw an average annual growth of 4%, adding approximately 1.7 million jobs to the American workforce each year. To put that into perspective, since 2005 the economy hasn’t even reached 3% growth for any given year.

As employees of today’s workforce, looking back at the Uber-less, iPhone-free era almost feels a bit archaic. So what exactly was the culture and environment like in the typical ‘90s office? Here’s a totally fly look at the retro-esque life of the ‘90s employee.

Floppy Disks in the '90s Workplace

1. They used floppy disks to store business documents, resumes, and any other information pertinent to their 9 to 5. Let’s not even discuss the floppy-disk-jammed-in-the-drive nightmare.

2. Whether they were drowning in mucus or coughing up a storm, employees would put aside their need for some R&R and still come into the office.

3. In order to stay up-to-date on the latest headlining stories, ‘90s workers had to actually read the newspaper – and no, I don’t mean the digital version.

4. Get this – they took an hour-long lunch break. That’s right, a full hour.

Painstakingly Slow Dial-Up Internet
5. They endured the painstaking, now-prehistoric sound of dial-up internet. WiFi? Is that a new Nirvana song

6. Cubicle life meant working independently versus the collaborative culture that is typically encouraged in today’s modern office.

Jennifer Aniston's Rachel Haircut and Will Smith's Flat Top
7. Women rocked Jennifer Aniston’s iconic ‘Rachel’ haircut, used crimping irons, and accessorized with butterfly clips. Men mimicked Nineties teenage heartthrobs by sporting bowl cuts, super-gelled spiky dos, and flat top hairstyles.

8. Contacting a client or prospect meant leafing through their Rolodex or cracking open a phone book.

9. When they needed to research certain topics or words, they turned to the Encyclopedia or Dictionary.

10. They chatted about the latest movie they rented at Blockbuster.

Want to Listen to Some Tunes? Grab a Walkman
11. If they needed a break, they listened to some bangin’ tunes on their Walkman or snuck in a game of Solitaire on their computer.

12. In order to conduct research on a sales prospect, you either had to grab a pair of binoculars and post-up outside their office or find news clippings on the company. Oh how we’ve taken LinkedIn for granted.

Beanie Babies, Tamagotchi's, and Beepers Relied on TV Advertisements in the '90s
13. Advertising didn’t involve the complex labyrinth of digital channels that we have today – it was simply done through the newspaper, radio, or TV.

14. If you wanted to talk smack about your manager, you had to exit your desk, find a secluded area, and whisper. There was no Slack or Google Hangouts to shoot out a quick group message about the latest aggravating task your boss assigned to you.

Office Space - If They Take My Stapler
15. Staplers and three-hole punchers were hot commodities and kept under close surveillance to ensure they didn’t mysteriously go missing.

16. The fax machine was a central hub for exchanging information. The shrill screech of the fax machine was no match for the sounds of printing via a dot-matrix or a line printer. Imagine a seemingly never-ending string of paper in lieu of the individual 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper we use today.

The Obnoxiously-Large Calculator of the '90s
17. When a ‘90s employee had to crunch numbers, it meant punching data into an obnoxiously-large calculator.

18. Bring your kids to work day was a regular affair. To occupy themselves sans iPad or Nintendo Switch, kids actually helped with work-related tasks.

Fashion Forward '90s Attire Required a Briefcase
19. Accessorizing your work attire with a briefcase was considered fashion-forward. What was inside? Work papers? A sandwich? Doesn’t matter, as long as you looked dope. 

20. If they wanted a cigarette break, they could take one at their desk.

You totally wish you could travel back to the '90s, right? While 12 Monkeys-style time travel technology has yet to be invented, we still have the glorious World Wide Web to remind us not only how rad the decade was, but how much the workplace has evolved since then.