Lucy Kellaway's History Of Office Life

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture

In today's Britain, more of us spend more time at an office than ever before. It dominates our lives. It's made more of us 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. We accept without question the way we work now. We endure the charade of the annual appraisal. We gawp at endless PowerPoint presentations in interminable meetings. We work in open plan offices where we can overhear our colleagues phone calls to their plumber. That's how things are done. But why?

For the last twenty 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. How did it end up like this?

Episodes

SeriesEpisodeTitleFirst
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Designing Office Space20130731

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 8 of 10: Designing Office Space

Lucy looks at changes in office layout.

The architect Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered open plan office space with the Larkin building in 1904. One result was that the open plan office began to resemble a factory, allowing easier supervision of staff by managers.

By the Sixties offices were made to appear more democratic with the development of 'office landscaping' in Germany and the Action Office in America. Lucy talks to Jeremy Myerson professor of design at the Royal College of Art.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

Getting a Job: Nepotism or Meritocracy?20130723

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 2 of 10: Lucy reveals how hiring the 'best man for the job' wasn't always the way it was done.

In the 19th century, office jobs were often obtained by patronage rather than qualifications. In the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1853, Sir Charles Trevelyan campaigned to introduce meritocratic recruitment to the civil service. But his ideas were met with hostility in many quarters. Lucy visits the Houses of Parliament and speaks to John Greenaway of East Anglia University

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

Sex and the Office20130730

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 7 of 10: Lucy charts the changes in workplace attitudes to sex. In the thirties and forties, secretaries were popularly seen as 'office wives' fulfilling similar duties to the wife in the domestic sphere. In the early sixties, the American writer Helen Gurley Brown argued for more equality with her controversial book Sex and The Single Girl. By the seventies, feminism brought new criticisms of the role of women in the office. Lucy talks to Julie Berebitsky of Sewanee, University of the South.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

The Arrival of Women in the Office20130725

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 4 of 10: The Arrival of Women in the Office

Lucy describes how women entered the white-collar workforce in the late 19th century. She visits the Bank of England to find out the story of their first female employee, Janet Hogarth. Such was the concern about women that offices featured different male and female entrances, staggered starting times, separated lunch areas and cordoned workspaces.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

The Beginnings of the Modern Office20130722

Programme 1: The Beginnings of the Modern Office

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture

In today's Britain, more of us spend more time at an office than ever before. It dominates our lives. It's made more of us 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. We accept without question the way we work now. We endure the charade of the annual appraisal. We gawp at endless PowerPoint presentations in interminable meetings. We work in open plan offices where we can overhear our colleagues phone calls to their plumber. That's how things are done. But why?

For the last twenty 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. How did it end up like this?

Part 1 of 10:

Lucy looks at essayist Charles Lamb's account of life at the East India Company in the early 1800s.

From its headquarters in Leadenhall street in the city of London, the East India Company created a complex bureaucracy to enable the governing of empire. Charles Lamb worked there for over thirty years and left a rich account of the frustrations and consolations of office life. With Huw Bowen of Swansea University.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

The Career Ladder20130724

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 3 of 10: Lucy charts the emergence of the career ladder as a way to motivate staff. The late 19th century saw a huge growth in office clerks. With the increase in staff, came the concept of a career ladder as a way to make up for the drudgery. Lucy looks at the Scottish banks and their early version of the annual appraisal, which often included strikingly personal comments. With Alan McKinlay of Newcastle University

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

The Invention of the Manager20130729

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 6 of 10: The Invention Of The Manager

Before the 20th century the manager had a rather shady reputation with writers like Adam Smith voicing their suspicions. At the turn of the 20th century, American engineer Frederick Taylor attempted to use science to systematize the principles of management. Taylorist ideas began to be applied to offices, making them 'factories of administration'.

Meanwhile the numbers of managers were increasing in large corporations. But by the fifties, there was dissatisfaction with the plight of the 'organisation man'. Lucy speaks to Alex Werner of the Museum of London and Chris Grey of Royal Holloway, University of London.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

The Office Is Where We Are20130802

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 10 of 10: The Office Is Where We Are

Lucy describes the increasingly blurred boundaries between the office and home, looking at the arrival of email, dress-down policies and homeworking.

Once the office was an imposing skyscraper, now it has shrunk to the palm of our hand in the form of a smartphone. We can do office work anywhere, so can we ever truly leave it behind?

With Chris Grey of Royal Holloway, University of London and Gideon Haigh author of The Office a Hardworking History.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

The Telephone and New Office Technology20130726

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 5 of 10: The Telephone And New Office Technology

New technology including the telephone, telegraph, typewriters, adding machines, and even filing cabinets revolutionized office work in the late 19th century. In particular the telephone was looked on suspiciously in the UK. Britain's chief post office engineer, Sir William Preece, told a House of Commons committee : 'I have one in my office, but more for show. If I want to send a message, I employ a boy to take it.'. Lucy visits the stores of the museum of London to see early examples of office technology, including an early private telephone belonging to the Rothschilds.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

Whatever Happened to the Paperless Office?20130801

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 9 of 10: Whatever Happened To The Paperless Office?

Computers have changed our working lives so thoroughly it is hard to remember what office life was like beforehand.

The first office computer however was not developed in San Francisco but in fifties Britain by the teashop company Lyons.

From those humble beginnings, Lucy charts the development of word processing and desktop computing. With Lin Jones of the National Museum of Computing.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

01The Beginnings Of The Modern Office2013072220150916 (BBC7)
20150917 (BBC7)

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture

In today's Britain, more of us spend more time at an office than ever before. It dominates our lives. It's made more of us 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. We accept without question the way we work now. We endure the charade of the annual appraisal. We gawp at endless PowerPoint presentations in interminable meetings. We work in open plan offices where we can overhear our colleagues phone calls to their plumber. That's how things are done. But why?

For the last twenty 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. How did it end up like this?Lucy looks at Charles Lamb's account of life at the East India Company in the early 1800s.

Programme 1: The Beginnings of the Modern Office

Part 1 of 10:

Lucy looks at essayist Charles Lamb's account of life at the East India Company in the early 1800s.

From its headquarters in Leadenhall street in the city of London, the East India Company created a complex bureaucracy to enable the governing of empire. Charles Lamb worked there for over thirty years and left a rich account of the frustrations and consolations of office life. With Huw Bowen of Swansea University.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

02Getting A Job: Nepotism Or Meritocracy?2013072320150917 (BBC7)
20150918 (BBC7)

Lucy reveals how hiring the 'best man for the job' wasn't always the way it was done.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 2 of 10: Lucy reveals how hiring the 'best man for the job' wasn't always the way it was done.

In the 19th century, office jobs were often obtained by patronage rather than qualifications. In the Northcote-Trevelyan report of 1853, Sir Charles Trevelyan campaigned to introduce meritocratic recruitment to the civil service. But his ideas were met with hostility in many quarters. Lucy visits the Houses of Parliament and speaks to John Greenaway of East Anglia University

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

03The Career Ladder2013072420150918 (BBC7)
20150919 (BBC7)

Lucy Kellaway charts the emergence of the career ladder as a way to motivate staff.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 3 of 10: Lucy charts the emergence of the career ladder as a way to motivate staff. The late 19th century saw a huge growth in office clerks. With the increase in staff, came the concept of a career ladder as a way to make up for the drudgery. Lucy looks at the Scottish banks and their early version of the annual appraisal, which often included strikingly personal comments. With Alan McKinlay of Newcastle University

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

Lucy charts the emergence of the career ladder as a way to motivate staff. The late 19th century saw a huge growth in office clerks. With the increase in staff, came the concept of a career ladder as a way to make up for the drudgery. Lucy looks at the Scottish banks and their early version of the annual appraisal, which often included strikingly personal comments. With Alan McKinlay of Newcastle University

04The Arrival Of Women In The Office2013072520150921 (BBC7)
20150922 (BBC7)

Lucy describes how women entered the white-collar workforce in the late 19th century.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 4 of 10: The Arrival of Women in the Office

Lucy describes how women entered the white-collar workforce in the late 19th century. She visits the Bank of England to find out the story of their first female employee, Janet Hogarth. Such was the concern about women that offices featured different male and female entrances, staggered starting times, separated lunch areas and cordoned workspaces.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

05The Telephone And New Office Technology2013072620150922 (BBC7)
20150923 (BBC7)

Lucy explores how new technology, like the telephone, changed life in the office.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 5 of 10: The Telephone And New Office Technology

New technology including the telephone, telegraph, typewriters, adding machines, and even filing cabinets revolutionised office work in the late 19th century. In particular the telephone was looked on suspiciously in the UK. Britain's chief post office engineer, Sir William Preece, told a House of Commons committee : 'I have one in my office, but more for show. If I want to send a message, I employ a boy to take it.'. Lucy visits the stores of the museum of London to see early examples of office technology, including an early private telephone belonging to the Rothschilds.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

New technology including the telephone, telegraph, typewriters, adding machines, and even filing cabinets revolutionized office work in the late 19th century. In particular the telephone was looked on suspiciously in the UK. Britain's chief post office engineer, Sir William Preece, told a House of Commons committee : 'I have one in my office, but more for show. If I want to send a message, I employ a boy to take it.'. Lucy visits the stores of the museum of London to see early examples of office technology, including an early private telephone belonging to the Rothschilds.

06The Invention Of The Manager2013072920150923 (BBC7)
20150924 (BBC7)

How the manager went from being seen as a charlatan to a captain of industry.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 6 of 10: The Invention Of The Manager

Before the 20th century the manager had a rather shady reputation with writers like Adam Smith voicing their suspicions. At the turn of the 20th century, American engineer Frederick Taylor attempted to use science to systematise the principles of management. Taylorist ideas began to be applied to offices, making them 'factories of administration'.

Meanwhile the numbers of managers were increasing in large corporations. But by the fifties, there was dissatisfaction with the plight of the 'organisation man'. Lucy speaks to Alex Werner of the Museum of London and Chris Grey of Royal Holloway, University of London.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

Before the 20th century the manager had a rather shady reputation with writers like Adam Smith voicing their suspicions. At the turn of the 20th century, American engineer Frederick Taylor attempted to use science to systematize the principles of management. Taylorist ideas began to be applied to offices, making them 'factories of administration'.

07Sex And The Office2013073020150924 (BBC7)
20150925 (BBC7)

Changes in attitudes to sex, from the 'office wife' to sexual harassment.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 7 of 10: Lucy charts the changes in workplace attitudes to sex. In the thirties and forties, secretaries were popularly seen as 'office wives' fulfilling similar duties to the wife in the domestic sphere. In the early sixties, the American writer Helen Gurley Brown argued for more equality with her controversial book Sex and The Single Girl. By the seventies, feminism brought new criticisms of the role of women in the office. Lucy talks to Julie Berebitsky of Sewanee, University of the South.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

08Designing Office Space2013073120150925 (BBC7)
20150926 (BBC7)

Lucy Kellaway looks at the changes in office layout over the last 100 years.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 8 of 10: Designing Office Space

Lucy looks at changes in office layout.

The architect Frank Lloyd Wright pioneered open plan office space with the Larkin building in 1904. One result was that the open plan office began to resemble a factory, allowing easier supervision of staff by managers.

By the Sixties offices were made to appear more democratic with the development of 'office landscaping' in Germany and the Action Office in America. Lucy talks to Jeremy Myerson professor of design at the Royal College of Art.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

09Whatever Happened To The Paperless Office?2013080120150928 (BBC7)
20150929 (BBC7)

Lucy Kellaway charts the impact of computers on office life.

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 9 of 10: Whatever Happened To The Paperless Office?

Computers have changed our working lives so thoroughly it is hard to remember what office life was like beforehand.

The first office computer however was not developed in San Francisco but in fifties Britain by the teashop company Lyons.

From those humble beginnings, Lucy charts the development of word processing and desktop computing. With Lin Jones of the National Museum of Computing.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

10The Office Is Where We Are20130802

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture.

Part 10 of 10: The Office Is Where We Are

Lucy describes the increasingly blurred boundaries between the office and home, looking at the arrival of email, dress-down policies and homeworking.

Once the office was an imposing skyscraper, now it has shrunk to the palm of our hand in the form of a smartphone. We can do office work anywhere, so can we ever truly leave it behind?

With Chris Grey of Royal Holloway, University of London and Gideon Haigh author of The Office a Hardworking History.

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for Radio 4.

OMNI0120130726

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture in an omnibus edition of the first week's episodes.

In today's Britain, more of us spend more time at an office than ever before. It dominates our lives. It's made more of us 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. We accept without question the way we work now. We endure the charade of the annual appraisal. We gawp at endless PowerPoint presentations in interminable meetings. We work in open plan offices where we can overhear our colleagues phone calls to their plumber. That's how things are done. But why?

For the last twenty 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. How did it end up like this?

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.

OMNI02 LAST20130802

Writer and satirist Lucy Kellaway traces the origins of today's corporate culture in an omnibus edition of the second week's episodes.

In today's Britain, more of us spend more time at an office than ever before. It dominates our lives. It's made more of us 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. We accept without question the way we work now. We endure the charade of the annual appraisal. We gawp at endless PowerPoint presentations in interminable meetings. We work in open plan offices where we can overhear our colleagues phone calls to their plumber. That's how things are done. But why?

For the last twenty 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. How did it end up like this?

Readings by Richard Katz, Sasha Pick, Adam Rojko and Kerry Shale

Historical Consultant: Michael Heller

Producer: Russell Finch

A Somethin' Else production for BBC Radio 4.