A Brief Overview of the History of Remote Work


The internet has not been here for more than a few decades but in these few decades, it has managed to revolutionize our lives. It has challenged the status quo in almost every aspect of life. You are no longer required to maintain records manually or communicate with people through traditional letters or to leave for work early in the morning every day.

What is remote work

Remote work refers to working without having to go to the office. It comes in many shapes and forms. It comes in many shapes and forms. For some, it means working from home, for others, it could mean sitting in a café on a table near the window with a perfect view while working on your office assignments. This is the future of employment.

With the ever-increasing development in technology, many aspects of our lives are being digitized. And to some, it may seem like it all began just a decade ago, in truth, it has already been in the works for the past 40 years.

When and how did it begin?

It all started in 1973 when a physicist named Jack Nilles from NASA communication system published a book called “Telecommunication – Transportation Tradeoff”. This book earned him the title of the “Father of Remote Work”. (The history of remote workers, n.d.)

In 1979, two separate events introduced the concept of remote working once again. First, an article was published in the Washington Post titled “Working at Home Can Save Gasoline”. The second event involved IBM experimenting with the concept of remote work by authorizing five of its employees to work remotely.

The experiment proved to be a huge success and by the time the world entered the year 1983, around two thousand IBM employees were already working from home. The internet was launched in the same year which proved to be very beneficial to the remote workers in helping them connect with the world from anywhere in the world. (The history of remote workers, n.d.)

Growth of remote work over the years

The years that followed only witnessed the internet introduce new, better, and more efficientways of doing things. It changed our lives, made them easier, relaxed, safer, and yet dangerous at the same time. Especially in terms of working remotely, the internet has been nothing less than a best friend.

With each new invention and improvement, remote work became easier and easier. Email allowed workers to stay in touch with their employers without leaving their homes and software like the Microsoft Office suite made it possible to digitize office records and other documents.

The 1.5 million mark of remote workers

In 1987, the total number of American remote workers reached up to 1.5 million and after Wi-Fi was introduced in 1991, the number only grew exponentially. (Rise of remote, n.d.)

Congress’s approval for permanent funding for “Flexi place”:

In 1995, permanent funding was approved by Congress for special equipment related to work “Flexi place” in the homes of federal employees so they could work remotely and from the comfort of their homes. In the same year, one of the first few hacker bases in the world was founded in Berlin. This hacker base is considered to be one of the oldest co-working space models ever. The base was known as C-Base. (The history of remote workers, n.d.)

The DOT Appropriations Act:

The year 2000 came with the approval of the DOT Appropriations Act that rendered it necessary for all decision-making organizations to formulate and adopt telecommuting policies and by the time 2004 arrived, nearly all of the federal employees were allowed to work remotely on the condition that it won’t have a negative effect (diminished employee performance) on their performance. (Rise of remote, n.d.)

San Francesco Co-Working Space:

Brad Neuberg, a software scientist, officially created the world’s first co-working space in the year 2005 and named it “San Francesco Co-Working Space” after the city it was built in. (Rise of remote, n.d.)

Yammer gets launched:

In 2008, Yammer, an enterprise social networking tool, was launched. Later, it was acquired by Microsoft. It provided the social networking platforms with the boost they needed to allow people to work with more ease. (The history of remote workers, n.d.)

Telework Enhancement Act:

In 2010, more than 59% of the remote workers were working for private companies instead of freelancing on their own because private companies were not only allowing them to work remotely but also paying them more than they would usually earn from freelancing. (Rise of remote, n.d.)

In the same year, President Barack Obama signed the Telework Enhancement Act that made it compulsory for all federal agencies to establish policies for eligible employees enabling them to work remotely. (The history of remote workers, n.d.)


Slack, a team collaboration tool, shows exceptional growth in the number of its users having zero users in the year 2013 and rising to 4 million daily active users in the year 2016. (Rise of remote, n.d.)

The fully-remote companies and remote workers:

In 2018, the total number of fully remote companies operating in America rises from 26 in 2014 and 170 in 2018.

Additionally, around 70% of the world’s entire population worked remotely once every week at the very least. And about 50% of the world’s population worked remotely for at least half the week, i.e. 3 to 4 days.

Zoom video collaboration software:

In 2019, the number of customers of the video collaboration software increased by 400% from 2017. The total number of customers with more than ten employees each was reported to be 50,800 which was five times the number of customers reported in 2017. (Rise of remote, n.d.)

How COVID-19 impacted the year 2020

The year 2020 brought the world an unwanted and devastating curse; the curse of the COVID-19 pandemic which caused a frighteningly high number of deaths all over the world. More than a year has passed and the world is still not safe enough for the lockdowns to be lifted and people to come out of their homes. This situation has dealt a severe blow to the traditional way of work. Now, with more than half the world under lockdown, remote working has become the only saving grace for those who want to earn a living, I wrote a deeper dive into the statistics of remote work. The significance of remote work has increased at an exponential rate.

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