Future Workplaces

Encouraging Innovation as Work Moves Semi-Remote

Remote work can increase productivity but often hinders innovation. A hybrid model is needed to harness the best of remote and onsite work.

By Carl Benedikt Frey, Director of the Oxford University Future of Work program

Remote work isn’t a new phenomenon. Before the Industrial Revolution, which took off in England around 1750, the vast majority of the population worked from home. The domestic system, whereby workers make products in their own homes, was predominant in Europe and elsewhere. The typical artisan lived in a cottage with often only one room, which served as both home and workshop. Much like a gig worker today, he decided for himself when a day’s work began and when it ended. In this light, the repulsion many felt toward the factory system is easier to understand. As historian David Landes puts it, the mechanized factory, which gradually replaced the domestic system, “required and eventually created a new breed of worker, broken to the inexorable demands of the clock.”

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