Working from a home office; file-sharing collaboration tools; growing numbers of digital nomads. It seems that remote work has slowly evolved into what it is today.

But that might not be the case, according to the Management Issues article, “The Hidden History of Remote Working.” Author Wayne Turmel points out that remote work has become what it is through much trial and error, mistakes made both publicly and privately, and with employees hanging onto their jobs for dear life as they rapidly morph from in-office to remote office.

The History of Remote Work and What the Future Might Hold

Yahoo Case Study

Turmel points out Yahoo as an example of a company that embraced flexible work options—and then just as quickly reverted back to its brick-and-mortar roots. Why? It simply couldn’t keep up with itself and the ultimate needs of a remote company. As a cautionary tale, here are some things that went wrong when Yahoo went remote:

  • It lost its company culture, and in turn, some of its staffers who felt disconnected from Yahoo.
  • Yahoo’s information technology department couldn’t keep up with the demands of its remote teams. This led to frustration and potential security breaches as employees worked outside the safety net of the company’s network.
  • Management didn’t know how to hire for remote job postings, according to the article.

Still, it’s not all doom and gloom for remote companies or those considering making the transition. Sure, there are bound to be bumps along the way, but one of the major markers for success that we’ve seen in remote companies is having corporate buy-in from the very beginning.

After all, if your managers strongly believe in the power of remote work (and the ability to be productive outside of an office), that sentiment will trickle down to every employee in the organization.

Problems Solved

It would seem that any potential pitfalls that a company would face in adopting a remote work policy would eventually be solved over time. Already, collaboration tools are becoming better and meeting the demands of remote workers. Team leaders are being trained on what to look for during the remote hiring process to ensure that they hire the best remote workers and therefore build better, more efficient, cohesive teams.

At this point, it’s highly unlikely that the pendulum will swing back in time, reverting the U.S. workforce to one that is office-bound. With the numbers of people working remotely growing (and an estimated 80 percent of companies offering flexible work options), remote work and the remote workforce are certainly here to stay.

Based on what we’ve seen, it’s safe to say that flexible work will only continue to grow in popularity, and be seen less as a workplace perk and instead as simply part of the position.

Remote jobs will offer comparable (if not higher) salaries as a way to attract top-tier talent from across the globe, and savvy job seekers will start honing their soft skills (i.e., problem-solving, self-managing, strong communication skills) even more to make them viable candidates for remote positions.

These changes are already happening, but they will become even more evident in the future. Most likely there will also be an IT surge unlike any other as companies create more apps, as well as collaboration and other synchronous tools to build stronger, more efficient remote companies and to help keep workers productive and connected no matter where they are in the world.

Readers, what do you think will happen to remote work in the future? What are your thoughts on the history of remote work? Let us know in the comments below!