Home is Where the Office Is

Home is Where the Office Is

Companies offering internet access, creating software applications and building mobile devices with all the bells and whistles have long touted the ability to “work from anywhere” with their products and services. It turns out, for a growing number of Americans that anywhere is home.

According to a recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans working from home in 2022 was nearly 10% higher than it was in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of workers-at-home peaked in 2021 at 18%. While it is clear the global pandemic was the catalyst for the change, working from home has been around for a long time. But the invention of digital tools that allowed employees to keep working enabled the necessity of being productive outside the traditional office.

Turning that old saw about mothers and invention on its head may end up being one of the most important legacies of the pandemic era.

For generations, the model of the centralized office, with workers layer-caked in gleaming towers of commerce, was the accepted norm. People kissed their spouses goodbye and headed into the concrete jungle to plug away at their jobs ensconced in their cubicles. The water cooler and break room offered some respite from the tasks at hand, but the conventional wisdom held that workers worked harder under the watchful eyes of supervisors.

That theory was blown out of the water by the actual experience of the shift to working from home. While people transitioning to their newly created home-based workspaces reveled in the ability to do their jobs in their pajamas, and learned the proper etiquette for virtual meetings, they also increased productivity. Having the flexibility to manage home and work life at the same time in the same place without direct supervision proved to be a game changer for many workers. And when companies began to order employees back to their old desks in the main office, many balked. Sure, the technology was great and the ability to communicate, interact and brainstorm from anywhere opened new possibilities of efficiency, but working in a common space had always been the norm.

That was then, this is now. Just as economies move in cycles, so do societies. Working from home has a long history stretching back to before the Industrial Revolution in the mid-18th century. And can also be a catalyst for change.

Not only has the emergence of the work-from-home concept become mainstream, it spawned its own sub-set of industries, from platforms for virtual meetings, a boom in home office equipment and supplies, digital office “gurus” preaching best practices and the like, as well as an entire fashion sub-genre of work from home chic.

According to the Census Bureau report, more than 20 million people joined the work-from-home workforce in 2022, and that number has likely increased. Work-from-home is here to stay. Welcome to the new normal..