Grab coffee. Go to work. Arrive at office building. Say hi to security. Ride elevator up. Arrive at work. Say hi to receptionist. Walk to desk. Arrive at desk. Sit down at desk. Say hi to coworkers. Look around. See motivational poster. This is a Standard Office Setting.
For starters, this is a white-collar workplace, with cubicles and fluorescent lighting that never turns off. Most of the members of upper-management have their own offices, which may or may not be luxuriously furnished. The main room will most likely have a bullpen style setup to make it easier for characters to interact with one another. Everyone is either busy or non-existent. There are piles of papers on every desk and though people should be working, this is a work of fiction. Obviously nobody is doing exactly what they should be doing.
This could be a law firm, publishing firm, newspaper agency, advertising agency, or architectural company. This could even be a politician's campaign office. In fact, the specific type of business doesn't always matter and may not even be known. It just needs to clearly be white-collar.
When there's an Office Romance, it's usually a case of Will They or Won't They?. If anyone is in danger of being terminated, it's never our main cast. Firings are usually equivalent to dying or being Put on a Bus, and if a character isn't fired but needs to be put out of the way, they get Kicked Upstairs.
Especially if this is a Work Com, expect Swivel-Chair Antics to ensue at some point and someone to use the photocopier in ways they shouldn't. They are likely to play Office Sports. If there's The Red Stapler, most people around the office will probably use the same one, and you'll probably end up buying one in Real Life because you keep seeing it in the work.
There are also works of fiction that portray the office life in a more serious light (expect to find this portrayal of the setting in Law Procedural, Police Procedural and other Crime and Punishment Series). It might focus on carefully navigating the office politics and pulling the right strings among your colleagues, subordinates and superiors. Some characters might strive to be promoted, they might want to form a new department or lead their own team, or if they are wealthy, they might want to become a partner and share full responsibility for the company. If your character is stellar at what they do, they might be headhunted by another company.
The Industrial Revolution led to an increase in the number of workers that businesses needed to handle paperwork, making this Older Than Radio, but it was The 20th Century's mass production and assembly lines which caused an explosion of white-collar work and made this the dominant workplace setting. The concept of cubicles were created in The '60s to increase productivity and save space.
Compare/contrast with Adminisphere, a setting workplace trope that portrays higher-ups and white-collars as having everything nice and fancy and so much better than ordinary workers of the same company. Soul-Crushing Desk Job is a common subtrope. A Desk Jockey is when someone works at a desk despite having an action related job like a police officer or soldier. Hospital Paradiso offers an even sleeker-looking workplace than is Standard Office Setting.
- Superman features the offices of The Daily Planet where Superman works in disguise as "mild-mannered" Clark Kent. Depictions have varied over the years, but they usually have the reporters, including Kent, in a bullpen, while chief editor Perry White has a private office.
- In the Spider-Man comics, Peter "Spider-Man" Parker regularly visits the offices of The Daily Bugle to sell pictures to editor J. Jonah Jameson in his private office, which is usually (depictions vary) attached to the bullpen where the regular reporters sit.
- Dilbert primarily sets itself in the unnamed office that Dilbert works. The office itself is a caricature of real-life offices, with grossly incompetent managers, borderline insane HR employees, and a marketing department that seems to be intentionally running the company into the ground. While there are fantasy elements (the HR manager is a cat, one of the employees is a robot), the work is generally grounded in reality.
- The Incredibles: Bob Parr briefly winds up as a cubicle drone at the predatory insurance agency Insuricare. In stark contrast with Bob's prior career as a superhero, the office is as bland and drab as possible, and the tyrannical boss Mr. Huph gets mad when Bob actually helps the customers. For extra insult, Bob barely fits into his own cubicle, because he has to share it with a concrete support beam.
- The Man In The Gray Flannel Suit has a lot of focus on this setting, as shell-shocked veteran Tom Rath (Gregory Peck) tries to deal with the stress of a high-pressure job in an office in public relations.
- Office Space is a comedic look at just how soul-crushing such an environment can be. Short cubicle walls make it easy for managers to lean over at any time to make unreasonable demands, and make it impossible to escape noise made by other workers.
- Mad Men is set in a New York advertising company. Secretaries sit in a secretarial pool, men leading a department or dealing with clients have their own offices, sometimes shared among more people. Meetings are held in big rooms or people's offices. Sometimes we see characters trying to get a better office or being envious of each other.
- Ally McBeal is set in a Boston law firm Cage and Fish. Most people have their own office and lots of the episodes happened in meeting rooms or in the courtroom. Quite legendary is their unisex bathroom. People who work for Cage and Fish frequent an idealized bar that is in the same building as their office.
- Chandler works as a data analyst in a cubicle. Later he's promoted and gets his office. One episode deals with his having to be a boss to his former pals, or dealing with his superior whom he doesn't particularly like, but who keeps inviting him to various activities.
- Rachel works in an office in the fashion industry. She starts a girl-for-everything, but gets up the company ladder and works as an assistant buyer. Some episodes have her struggle with being the only non-smoker in their department, finding a secretary (actually a guy Tag she has a crush on) or being a new mother who must coordinate the care for a baby and work.
- In one episode, Phoebe gets a temporary job, selling toner over the phone. She works in a cubicle. She calls only one guy who also has only a cubicle. His office has some motivational posters that don't seem to motivate him very much. He has a whiteboard next to his desk, with only one task for today: KILL SELF.
- NewsRadio takes place in a New York news radio station. Manager Dave Nelson has his own office, while the others work in an open workroom with desks and a communal table for staff meetings. (One episode has anchorman Bill McNeill install a cubicle for himself, which doesn't last.) There's also a broadcast booth behind soundproof glass and a break room (which was a control room in the pilot).
- In Twin Peaks The Return, Dougie Jones works in the high-end variety of this setting, in a glass-walled, leather-chaired, skyscraper office in which employees mostly seem to have serious meetings in plush conference rooms and hand each other manila envelopes. Most scenes in this setting involve Dougie having absurd difficulties in the elevator while getting coffee, or both.
- The Office (UK) is a workplace comedy which set in a small regional branch office of a large corporation, which shows off the range of this setting: there's a receptionist desk at the front, open space with a bunch of desks in the middle, and private office with a door for the office manager.
- The Office (US), like the British original, shows off the full range of the setting, from the open workspace filled with desks where the regular office workers sit to the private office with a door for the office manager.
- Better Off Ted is set in the main offices for a huge, faceless, multinational corporation. Ted, a middle manager, has a large, well-appointed, lush private office, while Linda and other regular workers sit in small cubicles, and are frequently forced to interact even when they don't want to.
- Spin City features the governmental version of this. Most of the cast sits in an open bullpen at City Hall, but the mayor and vice-mayor have fancy private offices.
- In Psych, when Phony Psychic detective Sean and his partner Gus visit Gus's other job at a pharmaceutical company, it is shown to be mostly rows of white cubicles. Lampshaded when Sean mocks Gus for working somewhere so boring and ordinary.
- The Mentalist:
- The investigating team works for the CBI (California Bureau of Investigation). The headquarters are situated in a nice red brick building with modern interiors full of glass, bricked walls and black furniture. Teresa Lisbon leads the team and has her own office. Other members of the team have a desk at the open space. Consultant Patrick Jane, the mentalist from the title, doesn't have a desk, but he has a couch instead, and he's often seen lying and sleeping on it. A kitchenette is quite essential for him, as he makes and drinks tea all the time.
- In season 6, some of the characters are shifted to work with the FBI. The architecture is even fancier. Jane makes sure he gets his old leather couch to the bullpen, even though it is against the FBI's policy. Teresa often compared the office and its meeting and interrogation rooms to an aquarium.
Lisbon: This room makes me feel like I'm in an aquarium, and everyone's looking at me.Jane: Mm. Well, you could very easily feel like they're all in the aquarium and you're looking at them.
- How I Met Your Mother
- Barney works at an extremely well-paying, mysterious corporate job. He has a huge, luxuriously furnished office. It's decorated with eye-catching motivational posters, one of them is notably for "awesomeness".
- Ted works as an architect in New York. Season 2 episodes sometimes show his workplace, which is a modern open space office, with bosses having their own offices.
- The IT Crowd: The protagonists work in a cluttered basement that has been converted into something of a "geek cave", filled with spare parts, band posters, board games and toys (or rather collectables). It also has a sofa, coffee table and television for just hanging out. It contrasts sharply with the bright, modern, corporate decor of the rest of the office, emphasizing how physically and culturally isolated the protagonists are from the rest of the company.
- Parks and Recreation is a Work Com about small-town government centring on the employees of the Parks and Recreation Department. The protagonist Leslie Knope works as Deputy Director of the Parks Department. She and her boss have their own office, while the other employees share a bullpen. They work in the public sector so their offices and bullpens are considerably less glamorous.
- Many scenes in The Mary Tyler Moore Show take place at the office of the The Six O'Clock News where Mary works. Mary has a desk in the bullpen, while Lou Grant and other higher-ups have their own offices with glass windows facing into the bullpen.
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Precinct 99 of NYPD is located in an older New York building. All the detectives have a desk in the bullpen and their direct superior Captain Holt has a small office. The show is a Work Com and there is much office tomfoolery, e.g. the detectives bet each other who will have more arrest, Scully and Hitchcock are useless as detectives but make good coffee, Diaz has rage issues and is occasionally seen slapping computer screens or smashing printers (Percussive Maintenance/Percussive Therapy style); they argue over their break room, try to find secret hiding spots, or they have to share the overcrowded space with other cops. They also often play cool Office Sports (e.g. Jake does "the full bullpen", AKA the FBP — he skids on his socks's from Holt's office to the elevator).
- Crashing: The London company called Something Events where Kate works and Lulu starts to work as a secretary has a bullpen that makes it easy for characters to communicate and interact.
- How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying takes place entirely in the headquarters of the World Wide Widget company. Being set in the 60's, the office lacks cubicles but is full of secretaries, Office Romance, and elevators. The company operates an entire skyscraper which includes both giant rooms filled with desks and opulent executive rooms.
- The office recreation in Job Simulator looks like an office from the 1980s or 1990s. Motivational posters are everywhere and everyone works in cubicles with box monitor computers.
- The Stanley Parable is set in what seems like a standard office building, with Stanley (the player character) being a normal office worker spending his workdays in a cubicle in room 427 - all meant to emphasize the monotony of his life. However, this setting can very easily go into Wonderland territories in some of the game's endings.
- Homestar Runner sometimes features an office filled with cubicles, where characters fulfil generic white collar responsibilities but spend most of their time avoiding work by playing video games, checking email, breaking the computers, etc.
- Manic Pixie Dream Wife:
- Chance is a software programmer and he works in a standard IT company. Some episodes are set by Chance's desk, and there are some office meetings as well.
- Simone starts working as a secretary in an insurance broker company. Her boss is a kinda cuckoo himself, so he tolerates Simone's antics for a bit, but he insists that she behaves professionally.