There was a time when the vast majority of people worked from home (or at least in the field nearby). The fact that most people now work at a location away from their place of residence is a comparatively recent development.
Leaving home each day to go off to work did not become common until the Industrial Revolution in the mid 19th century. Now, some signs are on the horizon that indicate we may be in for another significant change.
The Industrial Revolution brought with it notable advantages. However, everything comes at a price, and the Industrial Revolution was no exception. Inflexible working conditions, the loss of craftsmanship, and environmental factors such as urban sprawl and increased pollution were some of the costs.
The times they are a-changin’
Production efficiency, automation, and rapid communication have improved to a point now where most developed countries have begun the process of transitioning toward knowledge-based, service economies. In such economies, and with the right technology infrastructure in place, much of the work that people perform is free from the constraints of a specific location.
In the United States, 20% of workers now perform their jobs from home. In the Netherlands, this number is closer to 35%. In fact, the Netherlands recently passed a law mandating that all workers have the right to request from their employers that they be permitted to work from a home office. The significance of this law, which takes effect in July, is that whenever workers request that they be able to work from home, they no longer have to provide justification for why it is necessary. Instead, the onus is now on employers to prove why a specific person cannot work from home.
It’s a brave new world
The new law in the Netherlands was actually created as part of a reform to the country’s healthcare system. As populations continue to age, many people are finding it increasingly difficult to care for elderly family members. Being able to work from home allows for more flexibility in caring for loved ones. Prior to the industrial revolution, this was simply not an issue.
It’s not just demographic changes that are going to put pressure on the work force. Issues related to the environment also provide a clear impetus to change the way people work. According to an article in Forbes, alone in the United States, commuters spend 4.2 billion hours in traffic every year, which costs $78 billion in productivity, uses 2.9 billion gallons of gasoline, and releases 58 million extra pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This kind of waste simply isn’t sustainable.
That same article also points out that studies have shown that working from home, even just occasionally, offers measurable benefits.
- increased productivity
- reduced absenteeism
- lower commute costs
- flexibility to take care of day-to-day tasks such as deliveries and appointments.
- greater feelings of self-determination and job satisfaction
The craftsmen are coming back
It might be a bit too soon to predict the exact time of a new revolution, but the social and environmental trends mentioned above are certainly harbingers of that day. Change also tends to bring with it new opportunities.
One example of such opportunities is the rise of e-commerce. Prior to the industrial revolution, the local blacksmith knew who his potential customers were. They were the people who lived in the same village or town, and regardless of his skill, he was limited to that market. A craftsman today can set up an e-commerce website and offer his products to the world. With technology such as remote support, remote meetings, data backup, and IT monitoring solutions, businesses of all sizes can work in a decentralized way. Whether it’s a large company with thousands of employees around the world or an entrepreneur with a workshop in his garage, working from a home-office is an increasingly viable solution.
Do you have stories about using TeamViewer to work from a home office, and how it might have changed your life? If so, simply leave a comment below. We are very excited about your feedback!