The Full Historical past of Working from House


Brie Weiler Reynolds and Adrianne Bibby co-authored this submit. 

As a web site that champions versatile and distant work, everybody right here at FlexJobs is aware of fairly a bit in regards to the historical past of versatile working. However we needed to dig deeper to see what we might discover, specifically, in regards to the historical past of working from residence.

And we actually do imply the full historical past…we obtained swept up in analysis and wound up way back to the hunter-gatherers. However in case you’re in any respect excited about distant work and the way it got here to be, which we clearly are, it’s all fairly attention-grabbing.

In truth, as you’ll learn on this piece, the historical past of working from residence isn’t almost as current as many suppose. It truly has a for much longer previous than our historical past of working in places of work. The expansion of distant within the final 10 years is finally a return to an early and long-used method of working.

The expansion of distant work within the final 10 years is finally a return to an early and long-used method of working.Click on To Tweet

Hunter-Gatherers: The Earliest At-House Staff

From a long-view perspective, working from residence has at all times been a factor, not simply within the final a number of many years with the arrival of telecommuting, however for lots of of 1000’s of years. Combining work house and dwelling house is a pure method for households and communities to effectively pool sources, take advantage of the house at hand, and work cooperatively collectively for the great of all.

The work-home setting was a particular characteristic of life for hunter-gatherers, who foraged for sustenance and introduced the fruits of their labor again to the fireside. Folks ready animals for consumption, sorted and floor grains, and original clothes for protection and safety.

Medieval Work-Properties: The First Open-Plan Workplaces?

Quick-forward to the work-home of medieval instances, when the working lessons usually arrange craft and trade-focused retailers of their houses. They supplied items and companies to assist their households in dwelling areas that had been architecturally designed to accommodate working from residence.

For instance, throughout Medieval instances, most working-class English folks lived in work-homes. The only-story, one-room homes had been “a mix of kitchen and spinning/weaving/dressmaking workshop, bed room and dairy, eating room, butchery, tannery, and byre.”

Curious about a artful distant job? Study to be careful for “craft meeting” jobs, that are sometimes scams. As a substitute, try the most recent reliable artful and artistic listings on FlexJobs!

Domesticity was a focus of early work-from-home actions. Managing the house meant multitasking and managing sources, funds, and the division of labor. Boundaries between residence and work life, in the event that they existed in any respect, had been blurred at greatest.

Early at-home work within the center ages lined professions like bakers, seamstresses, shoemakers, potters, weavers, ale brewers, and blacksmiths. Notably, the gender hole was not a major issue, provided that home-based staff might as simply be male as feminine.


The all-hands-on-deck spirit of working from residence positioned worth on lots of the expertise at which ladies excelled, like stitching, calligraphy, or different of the so-called “womanly arts,” an umbrella time period that features home science and residential economics.

The Renaissance’s Concentrate on Administration Results in “Workplaces”

As time went on, retailers and craftspeople earlier than the Industrial Revolution created what is likely to be described as the primary residence places of work. These hybrid work-homes had street-facing retailers or workshops, and personal areas put aside for day-to-day dwelling.

However a rising curiosity in maintaining historic archives, administering state enterprise, and making a centralized location for these actions led to a few of the first administrative buildings. “One of the notable examples is the Uffizi Gallery, constructed by the Medici household in Florence in 1581. This course of required the administration, archives, and a state court docket to come back collectively in the identical constructing.”

This house formally grew to become an artwork museum within the 1700s and remains to be one of many best-known museums on this planet.

Uffizi Gallery

The psychological shift throughout this time in direction of free considering and schooling additionally created a rising want for centralized studying within the type of colleges. And the Industrial Revolution was simply across the nook, bringing much more centralized administrative oversight to the working world.

When you like working in an workplace, there are nonetheless loads of in-office jobs that provide flexibility equivalent to versatile schedules, part-time schedules, and extra!

The Industrial Revolution Pulls Staff Out of the Home

The Industrial Revolution introduced profound modifications for women and men alike. Manufacturing unit work, significantly within the textile trade for ladies, meant leaving residence and toiling in exterior work environments.

The commercial age birthed a brand new motion of expert staff and arrange a working-outside-the-home mannequin that many employers nonetheless observe immediately, regardless that it’s turn out to be more and more outdated.

That mannequin (the precursor of the 9-to-5, in-office work schedule) meant working an rigid schedule from an employer-provided setting, with employer-provided instruments or gear. The technique of manufacturing had been transferred from the work-home to the work-site.

Regardless of the arrival of labor alternatives exterior the house, some folks continued to work for pay from their houses into the 19th and early 20th centuries. For ladies, that work could have included doing laundry for outdoor clients, offering meals and baked items to promote to manufacturing facility staff, or doing “end work” for shoe and garment producers.


Do you know there are actually attention-grabbing clothes, fashion, and vogue distant jobs accessible immediately? Stylist, vogue and sweetness author, sample maker, private shopper, and extra!

Daybreak of the 20th Century: The Fashionable Workplace Takes Form

Workplace work introduced additional modifications. The historical past of the workplace reveals that the primary industrial workspaces had been vastly transformative, thanks largely to some new-fangled innovations: the phone, the telegraph, widespread public electrical energy, and the typewriter. These had been a few of the precursors to the distant workplace communication instruments we use immediately.

The event of public transportation choices that enabled staff to journey to and from residence comparatively inexpensively had a big impact as properly. Commuting was properly underway.

Ladies, specifically, moved into a brand new realm of professionalism that took them past craft-based or home work. The job of secretary, nonetheless a number one place amongst so-called “pink-collar staff,” required buying and selling off residence for the workplace.

Vintage secretary

For each ladies and men, work grew to become more and more related to leaving residence for an workplace or a producing facility.

Fortunately for immediately’s “workplace staff,” there are a ton of conventional workplace jobs that may now be achieved from residence! Administrative, enterprise improvement, human sources and recruiting, accounting and finance, advertising, and consulting, simply to call a couple of!

World Struggle II Modifications the Definition of Ladies’s Work

To at the present time, working from residence is usually regarded as women-dominated regardless that about the identical variety of women and men interact in distant work, in accordance with the “2017 State of Telecommuting” report.

That is likely to be as a result of early at-home jobs for ladies had been usually based mostly on their home duties. The concept of a lady incomes wages to assist her household appeared someway extra smart if the work concerned cooking, stitching, or caregiving companies like babysitting.

Then got here World Struggle II, Rosie the Riveter, and the necessity for ladies to work in factories and shipyards to take the locations of males who’d gone off to conflict. Ladies left residence to enter the workforce by the tens of millions.


Between 1941 and 1945, the variety of ladies within the office rose from 11 million to almost 20 million, in accordance with a research of ladies, gender, and World Struggle II. Regardless that many of those newly minted ladies staff returned residence to conventional roles after the conflict, they’d succeeded in altering the U.S. office eternally.

Wartime Expertise Lays the Basis for Fashionable Distant Work

Wartime improvements introduced the arrival of what PricewaterhouseCoopers referred to as the largest disruptor of all: know-how.

In 1942, the world’s first digital digital laptop was constructed at Iowa State College, which not solely helped crack enemy codes, but in addition laid the groundwork for the work-from-home motion that was nonetheless years off.

As famous within the PwC report, know-how is fueling “main tendencies like demographic change, useful resource shortage, local weather change, urbanization, and a world shift in financial energy.”

1950s: Housewives Discover Work-from-House Jobs in Multi-Stage Advertising

After World Struggle II ended, ladies who’d taken jobs whereas males went into battle discovered themselves out of the blue thrust out of a workforce that they’d excelled in. They’d the abilities, the expertise, and the need to work exterior the house, and but these alternatives out of the blue not existed for them.

Again to the house they went—and with their return to homemaking got here the rise of latest sorts of work-from-home alternatives, each reliable and fewer so.

One kind of work-from-home job we’ve seen as soon as once more rise in recognition traces its roots again to the post-World Struggle II period: multi-level advertising.

One kind of work-from-home job we’ve seen as soon as once more rise in recognition traces its roots again to the post-World Struggle II period: multi-level advertising.Click on To Tweet

In Vox’s article, “Why Your Fb Feed Is Crammed with Ladies Promoting Important Oils and Press-on Nails,” author Kate Shellnutt explains the beginning of so-called multi-level advertising “schemes,” also called MLM, referral advertising, pyramid promoting, and community advertising.

The primary alternative for post-war housewives to have their very own “enterprise” at residence got here from Tupperware.

“Brownie Sensible invited fellow ’50s housewives to display Earl Tupper’s line of plastic containers at one among her ‘patio events.’ Only a few years later, in 1954, Kiplinger’s Private Finance wrote that 20 million American ladies a yr attended ‘gross sales events within the residence.’”

1950s Tupperware party

Sadly, these fashionable enterprise ventures are nonetheless unprofitable for most individuals concerned with them. At one MLM firm, “92 p.c of the 130,000 consultants make $500 a yr on common.”

For immediately’s stay-at-home mothers and anybody who needs to make money working from home however isn’t within the high-risk world of MLMs, the excellent news is that there are lots of extra reliable work-from-home jobs to contemplate!

1960s: Inventive Staff Hold the Work-House Fires Burning Whereas Most Report back to Workplaces

By the 1960s, the 20th-century workforce was a commuting workforce. And labor was nonetheless fairly bodily. Manufacturing and textiles had been nonetheless booming industries and the “information economic system” that dominates immediately didn’t but exist.

However members of the inventive professions (artists, writers, and so on.) continued to make money working from home more often than not.

“What we’ve come to consider as fashionable stay-at-home staff actually grew out of the late twentieth century with creatives in metro areas like New York, London, and Paris reverting again to the Medieval method of doing issues—with studio flats that doubled as work house and dwelling areas,” writes the Historical past Cooperative.

Artist in a studio apartment

Inventive professionals can discover present distant jobs in fields like artwork and artistic, writing, modifying, leisure and media, vogue and sweetness, and graphic design.

This may be seen as each a return to pre-industrial revolution work routines and an development in direction of the way forward for work.

However corporations nonetheless largely managed the technique of manufacturing, as manufacturing, workplace gear, and different work staples weren’t but cheap or transportable sufficient to be utilized by people working from residence.

Nonetheless, a technological revolution was simply across the nook that might tip the technique of manufacturing in direction of the employees, and encourage corporations to begin adopting “telecommuting” in methods we might acknowledge immediately.

1970s: Oil Embargo and Clear Air Push Telecommuting to the Forefront

In keeping with the Atlantic’s “What Telecommuting Regarded Like in 1973,” the beginning of the 1970s noticed a number of key tendencies that pushed telecommuting to the forefront:

In keeping with the Atlantic’s “What Telecommuting Regarded Like in 1973,” the beginning of the 1970s noticed a number of key tendencies that pushed telecommuting to the forefront:Click on To Tweet

  • The Clear Air Act was handed in 1970.
  • The OPEC oil embargo started in 1973.
  • The concept of “gridlock” was coined to explain what then appeared like horrible commuter site visitors into and out of cities every single day.

Jack Nilles is basically thought to be the daddy of contemporary telecommuting. He was the lead creator of the “founding doc” of the telecommuting motion, a e book referred to as The Telecommunications Transportation Tradeoff.

Printed in 1973, the e book advisable “both the roles of the workers should be redesigned in order that they will nonetheless be self-contained at every particular person location, or a sufficiently refined telecommunications and information-storage system should be developed to permit the knowledge switch to happen as successfully as if the workers had been centrally collocated.”

In the present day, telecommunications and knowledge storage programs have developed to a degree the place info switch amongst distant staff happens “as successfully” as between collocated staff.

In the present day, info switch amongst distant staff happens “as successfully” as between collocated staff.Click on To Tweet

In 1979, with the OPEC oil embargo in its sixth yr, the Washington Publish printed the article, “Working at House Can Save Gasoline” which suggests telecommuting might have eased the gasoline disaster.

“If 10% of those that commute to work every weekday had been to begin working at residence two days every week, this would cut back the quantity of such journey by four%. This isn’t a big quantity within the absolute, however vital when in comparison with the three to five% general shortfall in petroleum availability which introduced on the current gasoline strains.”

The article even factors out that the rising service trade, declining manufacturing sector, and the expansion of information-based jobs make it a lot simpler for folks to return to decentralized, home-based strategies of labor that had been largely fashionable earlier than the Industrial Revolution.

Arguments Towards Telecommuting Emerge

With extra telecommuters got here the primary examples of a what would turn out to be a decades-long pattern: the publication of articles warning of telecommuting’s downsides.

The 1979 Washington Publish article additionally outlines the three foremost arguments that “skeptics” of telecommuting use to indicate that it isn’t a viable resolution:

  1. “If folks work from home, how can one inform how properly they’re doing or whether or not they’re working in any respect?”
  2. “Work from home would lower off staff from wanted contacts with their co-workers and others.”
  3. “Working at residence will merely show impractical: too many distractions and the dearth of a quiet place by which to work.”

Bad manager

At FlexJobs, after we learn these arguments from 1979, we’re struck by how related they’re to the arguments we nonetheless hear in opposition to telecommuting 4 many years later.

At FlexJobs, we’re struck by how related arguments in opposition to telecommuting are immediately in comparison with 1979. Click on To Tweet

The counterarguments for every of those factors are the identical immediately, too!

  1. Administration specialists agree that one of the best ways to measure staff’ efficiency relies on their outcomes, or “output,” slightly than their “enter,” or the hours they spend in an workplace house.
  2. Working at residence will not be an all-or-nothing proposition—hybrid fashions are efficiently permitting folks to work remotely some days, and within the workplace with their friends different days. And communication is basically achieved remotely anyway—over telephone, electronic mail, IM, net conferencing, video conferencing, and the like.
  3. The other is definitely true—places of work are the supply of many extra distractions than distant workspaces. That’s why 93% of surveyed staff select to depart the workplace to get significant work achieved.

When you’re a distant work fan, the excellent news is that, regardless that these arguments and counterarguments have remained the identical, the variety of folks telecommuting every year will increase.

In 2016, 43% of the U.S. workforce “sometimes” labored from residence and in 2015, 2.9% of U.S. worker staff labored remotely the entire time—that’s a 115% enhance between 2005-2015.

1980s: Firms Take a look at the Telecommuting Waters

With the tendencies of the 1970s nonetheless very a lot in impact as 1980 rolled round—excessive gasoline costs, gasoline shortages, the rise of the knowledge economic system and repair jobs, environmental issues, and “gridlock” commutes—corporations started to experiment with and formalize telecommuting applications for workers.

All through this decade, corporations like JCPenney, American Categorical, The Hartford, Normal Electrical – GE, Levi Strauss & Co., and Sears Holdings applied or grew telecommuting applications for workers, lots of that are nonetheless in place immediately.

American Categorical and The Hartford are each on the 2017 “100 High Firms with Distant Jobs” checklist! The checklist particulars the 100 corporations that posted probably the most distant job listings during the last yr.

In June of 1987, the Christian Science Monitor wrote, “Telecommuting: Actuality Units In,” the place it says about 1.5 million People had been telecommuters and about 300 corporations ran telecommuting applications.

Concerning gender and distant work, the article was clearly written when ladies had been nonetheless the first—or sole—caregivers for younger kids.

“‘A lady can’t concurrently take care of her little one and do her work,’” stated Kathleen Christensen, director of the Nationwide Challenge on House-based Work. “She performed a nationwide survey of 14,000 ladies, together with these with preschool kids. It discovered that two out of three of those moms who work from home (or want to) had to make use of supplemental day-care.”

Maybe that is the origin of all these horrible work-from-home inventory photographs we see of mothers wrangling kids whereas concurrently working.

Woman working from home with a kid

Distant work picked up steam within the 1980s, however there have been nonetheless some kinks to work out—a few of which we’re nonetheless debating immediately.

1990s: Federal Businesses, Congress, and the President Again Telecommuting

Telecommuting within the 1990s started with a big telecommuting experiment by the U.S. Workplace of Personnel Administration and the Normal Providers Administration.

Known as the Federal Versatile Office Pilot Challenge, the aim was to “assess the advantages and challenges of permitting staff to work at places apart from their authorities workplace base.” Reasonably than name it home-based work or distant work, these non-office work places had been referred to as “flexiplaces.”

About 550 staff participated and the outcomes confirmed advantages equivalent to:

  • Improved productiveness
  • Eradicated the necessity for workplace house
  • Diminished prices

Afterward, Congress voted for laws that appropriated funding for “flexiplace” work-related gear and utilities in federal staff’ personal houses yearly till 1995, when it was made everlasting.


In 1994 and 1996, President Clinton issued a Presidential Memorandum directing govt department companies to create extra “versatile family-friendly work preparations,” together with telecommuting.

In 1997, the Authorities Accountability Workplace (GAO) issued a report displaying the advantages to incorporate:

  • Diminished commuting time
  • Lowered private prices for transportation, parking, meals, and wardrobe
  • Enchancment within the high quality of labor life and morale
  • A greater steadiness between work and household calls for

Telecommuting was additionally being lined by tutorial and enterprise journals. Telecommuting research had been printed by the Journal of Communication and SAM Superior Administration Journal, and articles had been written within the Wall Avenue Journal, Working Lady, USA In the present day, Computerworld, and different massive publications.

In the present day, distant work is now lined nearly every day by information shops just like the New York Instances, CNN, the Washington Publish, the Wall Avenue Journal, USA In the present day, Bloomberg, CNBC, CBS Information, Enterprise Insider, the Atlantic, Forbes, Inc., Quick Firm, and plenty of extra. Try the most recent distant and versatile job information!

“Strategies to Reach Telecommuting”

By the 1990s, it was clear that “telecommuting” was the time period of artwork for any dialogue of home-based work. And largely, even understanding the potential pitfalls, organizations and companies appeared eager to make a go of it.

Increasingly more recommendation was printed to indicate organizations learn how to develop profitable telecommuting applications—and far of it’s nonetheless good recommendation immediately.

The Journal of Worldwide Data Administration launched a report in 1994 referred to as “Telecommuting: A New Enterprise Work Model” by which it detailed 12 key elements for profitable telecommuting applications:

  1. Get dedication from upper-level administration.
  2. Goal worker analysis.
  3. Common suggestions to telecommuters.
  4. Create a good rewards system for all staff.
  5. Present telecommuters with sufficient gear.
  6. Mail telecommuters all workplace memos and newsletters.
  7. Require telecommuters to attend employees conferences.
  8. Encourage telecommuters to go to the workplace when doable.
  9. Choose appropriate jobs for telecommuting.
  10. Choose appropriate staff for telecommuting.
  11. Use good laptop community safety mechanisms.
  12. Develop a telework middle.

These strategies had been meant to assist organizations overcome the commonest challenges of telecommuting, equivalent to: maintaining telecommuters productive and happy long-term; constructing organizational identification amongst telecommuters; minimizing laptop safety dangers; and compromising between a conventional workplace and a house workplace.

2000s: U.S. Census Says “Working at House Is on the Rise”

That’s the assertion declared by the U.S. Census after an evaluation of distant work within the years 2000 by way of 2010. Listed here are a few of the greatest stats from the Census’ evaluation:

  • Distant work on the rise: Between 2000 and 2010, individuals who labored a minimum of someday at residence per week elevated by over four million—35%. The inhabitants of occasional distant staff went from 9.2 million to 13.four million throughout this decade.
  • Extra staff working remotely than self-employed staff: Between 1980 and 2000, staff grew to turn out to be the vast majority of distant staff (over self-employed staff). In 1980, 39.four% of distant staff had been personal firm staff (not self-employed). By 2010, they grew to over 59%.
  • Distant staff are higher educated: By 2010, home-based staff had been extra prone to have a bachelor’s diploma (50.5%) than on-site staff (29.7%).
  • Occasional distant staff made extra money: Staff who work each at residence and on-site earned $52,800 per yr on common. On-site staff: $30,000 per yr. Distant staff: $25,500 per yr.

In 2001, the federal authorities expanded federal telework by passing laws to determine work insurance policies permitting eligible federal staff to telecommute “to the utmost extent doable with out diminished worker efficiency.”

All through the 2000s, extra corporations began providing remote-friendly jobs and promoting telecommuting choices of their job listings. This meant professionals might doubtlessly gear their job searches in direction of telecommuting jobs—however rip-off jobs had been additionally turning into an enormous drawback within the work-from-home job market. It’s estimated that for each one reliable telecommuting job, there are 60-70 scams.

To assist folks keep away from job scams and make it sooner, simpler, and safer to search out reliable and professional-level telecommuting jobs, FlexJobs was based in 2007. To rejoice its 10th anniversary in 2017, FlexJobs created this infographic in regards to the main distant and versatile job milestones seen between 2007 and 2017.

2010s: Distant Work Transitions from Perk to Enterprise Technique

In 2010, President Barack Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010, which doesn’t simply encourage, however requires all federal govt companies to determine insurance policies for eligible staff to work remotely.

For fiscal years 2014-2015, the Workplace of Personnel Administration stated telework participation elevated from 39% to 46% of eligible staff and from 17% to 20% of all staff.

All collaborating companies had been requested to report on the outcomes they skilled from telework. The most typical outcomes included:

  1. Higher emergency preparedness (59%)
  2. Improved worker attitudes (58%)
  3. Higher recruitment (35%)
  4. Higher retention (35%)
  5. Diminished worker commute miles (29%)
  6. Improved worker efficiency (17%)
  7. Diminished actual property prices (17%)
  8. Diminished power use (13%)

And distant work isn’t simply increasing and succeeding within the federal authorities.

In 2017, FlexJobs and World Office Analytics partnered to report on the state of telecommuting within the U.S. We discovered that between 2005 and 2015 telecommuting half-time or extra elevated 115%.

Learn the total “2017 State of Telecommuting within the U.S. Worker Workforce” report.

Moreover, 56% of jobs within the U.S. are actually suitable with a minimum of occasional distant work. And the variety of folks working from residence “sometimes” elevated from 37% in 2015 to 43% in 2016. All indicators level to the continued rise of distant work.

Even nonetheless, distant work has a methods to go.

Advancing Distant Work as a Key to the Way forward for Work

In 2015, Jack Nilles, the “telecommuting” phrase-coiner who first appeared on this report’s 1970s part, stated the largest barrier to the speedy enlargement of distant work will not be a scarcity of entry to high-speed Web, higher know-how, or extra inexpensive units. It’s altering organizational and managerial norms.

Person working from home in a nice office

“Organizational—and administration—cultural modifications had been way more necessary within the fee of acceptance of telecommuting,” he stated. “That was the case in 1974 and remains to be the case immediately. The adoption of telework remains to be properly behind its potential.”

During the last 140 years, and particularly throughout the 20th century, work has been organized from places of work and vegetation. “Fashionable” administration practices are based mostly on workplace staff, many of the best-selling and well-known books on administration had been written for in-office staff, and firm cultures had been developed on the concept that everybody labored from an workplace.

However earlier than the Industrial Revolution, going again to the start of the Center Ages within the fifth century, there have been over 1,300 years of home-based work.

Earlier than the Industrial Revolution, within the fifth century, there have been over 1,300 years of home-based work.Click on To Tweet

In the present day, we’re seeing a return to the work-home. Professionals, each these employed by corporations and the big and rising freelance workforce, are as soon as once more spending extra time working from residence. Sources are rising on distant workforce administration and creating firm cultures remotely.

A profound shift in when, the place, and the way we work is unquestionably happening. However, as Jack Nilles stated, the adoption of distant work remains to be “properly behind its potential.”

And that’s one of many foremost causes FlexJobs and our sister websites, and 1 Million for Work Flexibility, exist: to assist distant work, and all sorts of versatile work choices, attain their potential.

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