In today's Britain, more and more people spend longer at an office than ever before. It dominates lives. It's made more people middle class, transformed the lot of women, raised standards in education and been the reason for many technological advances. But the office itself seems to have no history and people accept without question the way they work now. They endure the charade of the annual appraisal, gawp at endless PowerPoint presentations in interminable meetings and work in open plan offices where colleagues' phone calls to their plumber can be heard. That's just how things are done, but why?
For the last 20 years, writer Lucy Kellaway has been an observer of the peculiarities of corporate culture in her column for the Financial Times. In this series, she looks back at the history of office life, including essayist Charles Lamb's account of life at the East India Company in the early 1800s.