Is working from home really a new idea?

Most weeks, I start this post with an end in mind. I know the primary application that I want our readers to embrace–usually born out of something I am learning for myself.

This week’s post is a little different. It revolves more around a question I have been thinking about.

Is working from home really a new idea?

Since 2020, every week, there are news stories and commentary about working from home. Is it good? Is it bad? What companies are giving this freedom? Which companies are taking it away?

Is working from home a good idea? 

I don’t know, but I firmly believe that calling it a new idea ignores history. 

According to The History Channel, “The Industrial Revolution was a period of scientific and technological development in the 18th century that transformed largely rural, agrarian societies—especially in Europe and North America—into industrialized, urban ones.” 

Before the Industrial Revolution, the majority of people worked from home. They were farmers, shopkeepers, and small business owners (blacksmiths, mill operators, etc.). Their places of work were directly connected to their domiciles. 

Even in my lifetime, many people still work close to home. 

  • My family roots are tied to farming, a form of work close to home. 
  • My uncle runs a small business and lives next door to it. 
  • My dad ran his own business, and while it was a couple of miles from our home, I grew up with two phones hanging on the wall. One was the house phone, and the other was the business phone. 

Work and home are very integrated in these types of situations. Cows need to be milked on Christmas morning. As a small business owner in a rural town, it is common to meet people after hours to help them with a problem.

(My cousin, Dean, and I were goofing around in the basement of our house when we were kids. We looped some string over the main water pipe and accidentally sawed the pipe in two. My dad called the local hardware store owner late on a Saturday evening to get the needed supplies for the repair. He graciously met us at the store and never let me live it down.)

I’m not exactly sure what this all means to the work-from-home discussion, but I have a couple of thoughts:

  • Working from home only works when you delegate responsibility. Everyone needs to know what is expected of them and what they are responsible for.
  • Working from home only works when you manage results, not time. Some weeks, writing this article takes minutes; sometimes, it takes hours. Either way, my boss is looking for the result and not worrying about my time.
  • Working from home only works when you have an abundance mindset. If you believe that your employees are just looking for a way to take advantage of the company, working from home will not work. However, if your employees want what’s best for themselves AND the company, it can work.
  • Working from home only works when your goal is more significant than the bottom line. People want to give their lives to something meaningful. They want to contribute to the world. You must be clear on how their job positively impacts others or the broader world if you want to give them the freedom to work from home.

These characteristics were inherit before the Industrial Revolution, and it seems that we lost part of them when we started to “go to work.”

And . . .  I should go now . . . because I need to do those things for my team members instead of typing an article about them, since they all work from home.


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Director of Operations for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

More Articles

The Power of Fear?

Every human being matters. Every person deserves to be led by someone who sees the best in them and will even sacrifice for them.

Read More »