It’s Tuesday morning and we are inside one of the most prestigious
cosmetic firms in the world. Estée Lauder Companies is the owner of
seventeen high-profile brands, including Clinique, MAC and Bobbie
Brown, with Head Offices to prove it. An imposing mahogany staircase
leads up to the employee access-only offices, and colossal white-flower
arrangements flank the hallway. Marble tiles are polished to a glossy
sheen and the meticulously groomed receptionist greets with a
cherry-red smile. This is pure luxury, and as Estée Lauder Companies
would have you see it, pure indulgence. But what exactly lies past the
restricted-access doorways?

Welcome to The Office. Almost
entirely female dominated, this office is straight out of a fashion
magazine. Throughout the various seasons, Gina heels and Birkin bags
are displayed in an act of ultimate exhibition. Hair is ironed and
lashes are coated in layers of black. Smiles are glossed on and Tiffany
jewellery blings. Deep down, however, in this world of glamour and
lipgloss, lurks normality.

Caroline in Marketing has emailed me the equivalent of The Iliad about her love life, and why she thinks he still
has not called. Sophie in Creative is crying because her boyfriend
dumped her. Again. Tracey in Education is moaning about how she needs a
better life and how beautiful her cat is and Sean is describing how his
boyfriend disappeared for three hours at a Brighton nightclub. Drama.

is your typical office – frantic tapping of keyboards, phones screaming
to be picked up, the din of too many voices and a sense of deadline
urgency – all shrouded in the air of the glamorously feminine cosmetic
world and the highly strung pulse of female emotion.

Cross town
to one of London’s most successful estate agencies in Maidavale. A male
dominated office, this workplace exudes an air of chic competency. A
slick entrance leads to a neat alignment of clear desks, behind which
sit hair-gelled young men with stretched toothy grins. But, what lies
behind the professional vinyl of this office?

I speak to Leann,
one of two female employees at the Maidavale branch. She informs
me that behind the target-urgency to make commission, and the
seriousness of those in the heart of a potential sale situation, these
boys are most concerned about their ties. Colour and style of knot is
the discussion of most mornings. I ask Leann how the behaviour of the
men in her office compares to Estée Lauder’s female crowd. She casually
tells me how she is often yelled at from across the room to close her
ears as one of the guys starts of a round of "who-can-fart-the-loudest"
and she is routinely copied in on some of the hard-core porn doing the
email rounds. This is your typical male-dominated environment and on a
social scale, a stark contrast to the world of beauty products, where
eau de parfum is the fragrance most desired to creep into the nostrils.

the world of the modern day office, much of the mundanity of work
remains the same. Projects are generated. Deadlines are created and
rushed at. Targets are reached for. However, it is the employees and
the relationship between them that essentially create the essence of
the office environment. For Leann, it is the mischievousness of boys
and the hilariously gruesome behaviour they tend to exhibit when in a
crowd. For me, it is the sweet smell of flower arrangements and wafts
of parfum, the gossip and the pre-menstrual tears. For some, office
life may be something of a complete tear-inducing bore, and for others,
it may be a rip-roaring blast. Ultimately, the office is where the
heart is!