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The history, evolution and future of remote work

Naseerah Nanabhai

Undoubtedly the pandemic has accelerated remote working practices, but the concept itself is not new and has been around for a while-before Covid-19. Remote working has been rampant for decades, but since 2020 it has been noticeably growing, with the social media hashtags #DigitalNomad and #WorkFromAnywhere contributing to its popularity.

In 1975 the first personal computer was introduced; workers could finally work remotely outside the office. Only in 1990 did the internet emerge, which then helped remote workers connect via email and virtual office tools.

In 1997 Google’s search engine was launched, and this broke down numerous barriers as employers and employees could find each other despite where they lived. Later in 1999, centralized project management tools were introduced, which gave both management and employees one centralized place to manage work flows remotely.

The 2000s opened the floodgates for remote working when wireless internet and broadband were introduced. It meant remote workers could work without being tied to a physical location for their ethernet internet connection.

Between 2002 and 2010, we saw the launch of numerous new sites and applications that aided remote working, such as the introduction of LinkedIn, Skype, and Slack, to name a few. In 2012 the unveiling of Google’s suite of office tools and digital file storage, known as Google Drive, became a modern-day workspace where employees, both in-house and remote, access important documents and files while collaborating and giving feedback in real-time.

Between 2016 and 2018, reports regarding telecommuting and remote work programs proved remote work to be beneficial to employers just as much as to employees.

In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic spiked remote work globally. Months of social-distancing rules, quarantine regulations, and lockdowns drove companies to re-think and restructure their processes. The current crisis serves as a large-scale remote working experiment, demonstrating what works and what does not. The trend towards more flexible workplace models, accelerated by the coronavirus crisis, positively affects society, giving people more flexibility in terms of location and time management while also lowering the burden on road and rail infrastructure.


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