"Near utopian" workplace conditions, circa 1852

by HCA11 Apr 2014
Workers at risk of feeling overworked, over-regulated and under-leisured may take heart in reading this document – workplace conditions have certainly improved since 1852. This date-stamped notice was discovered in the ruins of a London office building:

1. This firm has reduced the hours of work, and the clerical staff will now only have to be present between the hours of 6am and 7pm weekdays.

2. Clothing must be of sober nature. The clerical staff will not disport themselves in raiment of bright colours, nor will they wear hose unless in good repair.

3. Overshoes and topcoats may not be worn in the office, but neck scarves and headwear may be worn in inclement weather.

4. A stove is provided for the benefit of the clerical staff. Coal and wood must be kept in the locker. It is recommended that each member of the clerical staff bring four pounds of coal each day during the cold weather.

5. No member of the clerical staff may leave the room without permission from the supervisor.

6. No talking is allowed during business hours.

7. The craving for tobacco, wine, or spirits is a human weakness, and as such is forbidden to all members of the clerical staff.

8. Now that the hours of business have been drastically reduced, the partaking of food is allowed between 11:30 and noon, but work will not on any account cease!!

9. Members of the clerical staff will provide their own pens. A new sharpener is available on application to the supervisor.

10. The supervisor will nominate a senior clerk to be responsible for the cleanliness of the main office and the supervisor's private office. All boys and juniors will report to him 40 minutes before prayers and will remain after closing hours for similar work. Brushes, brooms, scrubbers, and soap are provided by the owners.

11. The owners recognise the generosity of the new labour laws, but will expect a great rise in output of work to compensate for these near Utopian conditions.


  • by Samantha 11/04/2014 11:45:21 AM

    Wonderful! I wonder what the conditions were like pre-near-Utopia?

  • by S.Mark 11/04/2014 11:53:30 AM

    I printed this out and our director, with very good humour, announced the changes to the staff ... it provided a great moment of team building as we all pondered on what utopian work conditions were if these were so close!

  • by Guy 14/04/2014 12:51:02 PM

    Funny stuff. A friend was lamenting that his company introduced "austerity measures" which meant that all office plants were removed, the coffee machines were decommissioned and fresh fruit Mondays (where staff are provided with a selection of fresh fruit) have been cancelled. Who knows - next they might have to start wearing clothing of a 'sober nature' :)