Work on a remote control – a well-forgotten old

Forced self-isolation sharply increased the popularity of the “udalenka” – in the absence of other alternatives. IT companies have radically redefined their views on doing business, and many have abandoned offices altogether. But everything would be more complicated if we didn’t have such an alternative. We will tell you how the concept of working at home came about and talk about its impact on the labor market.

Photo – Patrick tomasso – Unsplash


The format of labor organization, which is gaining momentum, is far from new. Before the industrial revolution, “from home” worked most those whose activities allowed it: peasants lived in a single space with cattle, artisans worked in home workshops. The emergence of factories and manufactories made work from home the destiny of self-employed citizens. This tradition has been preserved to this day – in the same UK, many owners of pubs and grocery stores live in rooms above their retail space. But for the majority of the educated office workers, work from home was not possible until the 1980s.

The post-war urbanization of developed countries (the growth of suburbs and the relocation of wealthy citizens to the surrounding countryside) greatly increased the time that employees spent on their journey to the place of work. At the same time, in many countries it has increased and pressure unions claiming that people spend too much time at work.

Part of the problem was solved by popularizing flexible schedules. Thus, employees who were delayed for several hours on one of the days of the week were given the opportunity to leave work early the next day — or they themselves chose the time of the beginning of the working day and lunch break.

Photo – Patrick tomasso – Unsplash

In 1976, former NASA engineer Jack Nilles (Jack nilles) published a book ahead of time called “The Telecommunications-Transportation Tradeoff“. In it, he proposed an even more radical solution to the problem of traffic jams, the associated fatigue and loss of personal time for employees – to “break up” large offices in the city center into many small ones on its outskirts. Such satellite offices, according to his plan, could communicate using telecommunications, and company employees would be able to walk to work.

Ten years after the publication of the work, there was also a real opportunity to bring Nilles ideas to life – microcomputers and modems made it possible to connect employees’ residential buildings directly.

The pioneers in the field of remote work were IT companies and government organizations. Throughout the 80s, the US government launched a number of programs to test the potential of various telecommunications solutions, and to “train” managers to work with employees on a distance. In 1980, part of the army of St. Louis participated in a remote work experiment that lasted 18 months. Managers were pleased with the results, but the examination recognized that handing confidential data to employees creates the risk of leakage of classified information. In the 90s, pilot programs were also conducted in the civilian sector. Thanks to pioneers in this area, remote work has become a standard option for employees of the US government and remains so. to this day.

Photo – Greg rozenke – Unsplash

Remote is mainly associated with IT professions. True, the collective image of the IT specialist working from somewhere in Thailand is already outdated. A whole generation of independent contractors – drivers, couriers, tutors – in principle, does not feel the need to sit in the office. These people’s lives revolve around customer communication applications. And cloud technologies have opened the way to a remote site for almost all office employees. But what should be expected if the popularity of this format continues to grow at such a rapid pace?

Social elevator

The obvious advantages of remote work are the ability to not waste time on movement and the freedom to independently build a daily routine. For some social groups, these nuances open up many new possibilities. So, people with limited mobility and people with disabilities, previously limited in their choice of activity, will be able to access a wide range of jobs (By given The Guardian, educated people with disabilities have problems finding a job more often than low-skilled job seekers who are not limited by health difficulties.)

In addition, the massive shift to telecommuting will help make the search for decent employees, regardless of their geographic location, a new norm. Candidates who are not able to move to megacities will receive valuable experience and a salary higher than the average for their region. This trend has a downside – hiring employees with low salary expectations can lead to a drop in the average market salary in the industry (statements by large IT companies in this area can explain by such considerations).

Photo – Jacky chiu – Unsplash

But for now, unfortunately, remote work on hand First of all, already well-protected sections of the population. Back in 2015, a study conducted by the national statistical agency of Canada showed a direct relationship between access to distance and employee income. In other words, the higher the earnings, the more likely it is that a person will work from home.

The fact is that by no means every work allows self-isolation – and there is a place for social inequality: the more low-paid employees are among representatives of a particular profession, the less is the total share of “remote workers” in this profession.

Most actively, according to Canadian researchers, civil servants, teachers, lawyers, scientists and managers are moving to a remote place. But trade and service workers cannot afford such luxury – and in the new conditions, these conclusions remain relevant.

Some categories of citizens will not be able to feel all the advantages of working at home: vital tasks almost always require human contact. Doctors, firefighters, law enforcement officers, drivers are forced to leave home, even when the rest of the world is locked up. Owl Labs, a conferencing device manufacturer, held last year study among working Americans aged 22 to 65 years, according to the results of which it turned out that 34% of respondents are ready to go for a 5% reduction in wages in order to be able to work remotely. Moreover, 24% of respondents were ready to cut their earnings by 10%, and another 20% would agree to work from home and for less money.

It is unlikely that today a similar poll would show the same results. In the new conditions, even those who previously advocated for a remote place are forced to reconsider their priorities: it turns out that working from home is not suitable for all those who can afford it. Next time, we’ll look at what physical and psychological changes are pulled by distance and how to withstand them.

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