London's Global Office Economy

From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub

By Rob Harris 

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London’s Global Office Economy: From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub is a timely and comprehensive study of the office from the very beginnings of the workplace to its post-pandemic future. The book takes the reader on a journey through five ages of the office, encompassing sixteenth-century coffee houses and markets, eighteenth-century clerical factories, the corporate offices emerging in the nineteenth, to the digital and network offices of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

While offices might appear ubiquitous, their evolution and role in the modern economy are among the least explained aspects of city development. One-third of the workforce uses an office; and yet the buildings themselves – their history, design, construction, management and occupation – have received only piecemeal explanation, mainly in specialist texts. This book examines everything from paper clips and typewriters, to design and construction, to workstyles and urban planning to explain the evolution of the ‘office economy’.

Using London as a backdrop, Rob Harris provides built environment practitioners, academics, students and the general reader with a fascinating, illuminating and comprehensive perspective on the office. Readers will find rich material linking fields that are normally treated in isolation, in a story that weaves together the pressures exerting change on the businesses that occupy office space with the motives and activities of those who plan, supply and manage it.

Our unfolding understanding of offices, the changes through which they have passed, the nature of office work itself and its continuing evolution is a fascinating story and should appeal to anyone with an interest in contemporary society and its relationship with work.

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The Five Ages of the Office

Below is a key image from London’s Global Office Economy: From Clerical Factory to Digital Hub showing events and inventions during the five ages of the office

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