On the last Thursday in June we celebrate National Work From Home Day, this year it is June 25. It’s a chance to recognize the technological and cultural evolutions that allow us as a work culture to be as productive anywhere in the world as we are in the office. For years, working at home had been the purview of certain types of jobs, or saved as a bonus to reward employees while the rest of us battled with the daily commute. Now, however, the tools exist so that nearly any office job can be done at home without a loss of productivity. Today, we celebrate those achievements and do so in our pajamas.
History of National Work From Home Day
The history of working from home should probably be called the history of working, because for most of human history work was done primarily in and around the home. From the earliest hunter-gatherers to the home-based shops of medieval Europe, working from home was more the norm than the exception. It wasn’t until the Renaissance when mixed use storefronts gave way to more centralized administrative buildings for government, schools, that the idea of an office to go to for work even entered the lexicon.
However, it was the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century that changed the way we work in profound ways. The advent of factories with sophisticated and heavy machinery for producing goods such as textiles meant that people were unable to do their work within the confines of their own homes. This created the working outside of the home model consisting of skilled workers that would eventually evolve into our own familiar office-style work model.
Throughout most of the 20th century work from home was relegated to certain professions, the most notably being creative arts — painters, musicians, writers, etc. — and multi-level marketing jobs that became popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
However, in the background, the technology was slowly evolving to the point where working from home was as technologically sophisticated and productive as working in an office. From roughly the 1980s until today, technology has opened the door bit by bit to more and more remote work options. The personal computer, the fax machine, mobile phones, the internet, video chat, collaborative documents, have all collaborated to changes in remote work culture and capability.
As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on remote work is analyzed in the coming months, many of the cultural barriers to remote work may be weakened or removed, revealing a renaissance in remote work professions (pants options, of course).