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CityLab
Economy

The Invention of Telecommuting

Working remotely long predated third-wave coffee shops and sleek co-working spaces.
The inside of TREExOFFICE, a co-working space in London built around the base of a tree, in June 2015.
The inside of TREExOFFICE, a co-working space in London built around the base of a tree, in June 2015.AP Photo/Matt Dunham

According to the latest Census numbers, 4.5 percent of Americans, or about 6.5 million people, are working from home most of the time. That’s up from 3.2 percent in 2000, and roughly double the proportion in 1980.

This uptick is new, conjuring images of freelancers hunched over laptops—but telecommuting isn’t. The concept of working away from the main office is much older than mobile technology; in fact, it predates the personal computer.