The Progression and History of Remote Work
Remote work is no new invention. It has been around since the 1970s. Now considered the father of remote work, NASA consultant Jack Nilles first worked remotely on a communication system in 1973, almost 50 years ago. By 1987, 1.5 million Americans were telecommuting to work, followed shortly by the invention of wifi in 1991.
Twenty years ago, in 2000, congress passed the DOT Appropriations Act. This act required all executive agencies to establish policies for telecommuting. Ten years later, the Telework Enhancement Act required all federal agencies to create systems for eligible employees to work remotely. By 2018, 70% of the world’s population reported working remotely at least once per week while working in the office other days of the week.
For as long as this hybrid work model has been around, it has grown in popularity as the years have passed. Of course, this work model was pushed even further along this year, in 2020, with COVID-19 forcing the entire world to change their everyday lives in an attempt to keep one another safe.
With so much progress leading up to this year, and the final push due to COVID-19, it is hard to imagine that the statistics will look the same as they did in 2018. Remote work and the hybrid work model seem likely to become our new normal for most working-class citizens worldwide.
Introducing the Hybrid Worker
As companies begin to bring employees back to the office, scenarios will remain for virtually every organization that employs office workers where at least some employees remain fully remote. However, fully-remote employees will be the minority of office workers while hybrid workers will become more prevalent due both to the current pandemic as well as freedoms and benefits employees and employers have discovered while working from home.
These hybrid workers will work remotely part time and in-office part time, allowing companies to reduce office space and overhead while ensuring a safe return to the office and greater distancing between personnel. Additionally, employees will discover a greater freedom to work where they feel comfortable, improving both job satisfaction and productivity.
The Benefits of Hybrid Work
The core American value is freedom. The United States was founded on the idea. Thus, it is a value that many Americans hold in high regard in every aspect of their lifestyle. As Americans, we have learned to love it and to expect it in all areas of our lives. Hybrid work gives employees the freedom that they expect and hope to have.
They have the power to choose whether they want to work at home, at the office, or even in a coffee shop. Their environment, their comfort, and thus their satisfaction is almost entirely in their own hands. The hybrid work model allows employees to take responsibility for their experience, which, more often than not, leads to a much more satisfying and productive work life.
With the independence given to each employee, they can adjust their work environment to meet their personal needs. They can also change their work schedule to accommodate their home lives better. Working parents can spend breaks playing with their children instead of sitting around in the breakroom waiting to go back to work.
The hybrid work model makes way for more task-oriented work rather than time-oriented. This way, employees can spend as much or as little time needed for their particular daily tasks instead of being at the office for a certain number of hours each day. All of these factors lead to greater employee satisfaction, which leads to the last point; greater productivity.
Hybrid work allows employees to work where they wish. Both freedom and satisfaction bring increased productivity. As previously established, employees’ power to control their environment means that they can choose to work in an environment where they feel most content, comfortable, and productive. Everyone has different preferences when it comes to where they can be the most productive. A hybrid model that gives the employee a choice will be much more efficient than a blanket “norm” for each employee of where they are expected to work every day.
A Permanent Shift
There’s no real proof that remote work will become the norm, but why shouldn’t it? As we’ve seen from the increasing amounts of remote work through the years, it was bound to eventually come this far. In the 1970s, Jack Nilles’s inspiration sprung from observing office workers commuting to an office every day, where they would get on the phone with someone in an entirely different location.
Telecommuting to Nilles made the most economical and environmental sense. He even went as far as to publish a book in 1976 entitled “The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff.” This book focused on solving the commuter traffic problem by developing practical protocols for remote work. This change would save both time and money on the commute and lead to significantly less pollution in the air from cars. People laughed at the idea at the time. Forty-six years later, remote work is the only option for many people, and it’s all thanks to Nilles that we have the option at all.