A Brief History of Telecommuting

by | Feb 9, 2017 | Business Technology

Despite its space-age feel and modern popularity, telecommuting actually has roots that go back long before the internet and modern technology. People have sought ways to work at home for practicality, convenience, and out of necessity for at least hundreds of years. In today’s workplace, telecommuting has many great advantages and some disadvantages to consider. Take a look at this brief history of telecommuting and its impact on modern business.

Early Examples

Long before the word telecommuting even existed, people were earning a living at their place of residence. Farmers are a good example to this day. Artisans and craftsmen also often set aside an area in their home to craft their trade or make their products. History tells us in the 1600’s and 1700’s, people were basically working as home-based subcontractors. Raw materials would come from merchants to their homes where they would craft them into desired items or needed materials. In this way they avoided the time and danger associated with traveling while maintaining their household and caring for their children.

Modern Telecommuting

Fast forward to 1972 when Jack Nilles was working for NASA from home and coined the term, “telecommuting”. Studies were done, articles were written, and businesses began to look into telecommuting as a viable option to save money.

1972- Jack Nilles coins the word, “telecommuting” while working on a communication system for NASA from home.

1980’s- JC Penney hired call center agents to take catalog orders at home. Other business also experimented with ways to implement work-at-home options for employees.

1990’s- Clean air initiatives incentivized businesses to reduce commute times for employees.

The rapid advancements of technology throughout the 90’s to the present day have made telecommuting more possible and popular than ever. The percentage of employees who telecommute is high and still rising.

Pros and Cons

Telecommuting has a lot to offer to modern business, but not without a few things to keep in mind. It can improve productivity, help with key employee retention, and save employers and employees a good amount of money. Here are some things to consider:

Employees still need a healthy work/life balance. Working from home can sometimes blur the lines between work time and private time. It can also be a challenge if you have children who are home. Employees need to be encouraged and enabled to retain a healthy work/life balance.

Employees can miss out on your company culture. If an employee never or rarely comes into the office or spends time socially with other members of your team, they can feel isolated. Your team is best when you build trust and support among all members. This can be challenging when some are telecommuting.

Collaboration can be harder. Spontaneous conversations in the office do not happen, so some ideas and sparks of creativity may not happen either. Also, sometimes collaborating on projects is easier in person. However, cloud services and other technology has made collaborating remotely a viable and effective option.

Is it Right for You?

Telecommuting has played a vital role in many businesses long before we even knew what to call it. The effectiveness of working at home has been significantly enhanced through advancements in technology and the internet. It could be a great option for your business to save money, increase productivity, and retain key employees. Contact Us to learn more about telecommuting and how cloud-based services can enhance your business.

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