On my way into work each morning, I pass an unlovely concrete spot at the back entrance of The Financial Times where the building's last-surviving smokers can still have a quiet fag. It is years since I have felt the urge to join them, but I was up against such a nasty deadline not long ago that I cadged a cigarette from one of the few people I know who still smokes and headed outside. A man I had never met before offered a light, and, as we puffed away companionably, he started telling me about his job in some distant part of the building where people worked on conferences and events. As I listened to him chat about how everyone had been flogging themselves to promote a looming conference he feared would flop, an awful thought began to form: he was talking about an event I was due to chair. This was an instant, if brutal, reminder of the value of smoking at work. It is one of the cheapest and most effective ways of finding out what is really going on in the office. Admittedly, it c...

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