Most white-collar workers in America were forced to work at home during the pandemic. Many of them discovered they liked it and want to keep doing it. Many companies, especially in the tech industry, have responded with policies allowing work from home permanently. This includes firms like Twitter and Spotify. Nationwide Insurance is closing several offices and allowing companies in those locations to work remotely. Others like Ford are embracing a hybrid model with a mix of in office and remote work. Pre-pandemic, the share of people working from home was already rising, going from 3.3% in 2000 to 5.7% in 2019. Even if only a small share of workers stays fully remote, this will be millions of additional workers. While work from home is not the same as a home-based business, it still represents a radical reorientation of the location where work is performed. It’s as if the textile business reverted from factory-centered back to the putting-out system.
Add it together, and this is a radical shift for many families. They are now working from home, caring for children at home, schooling their children at home, doing their own yard work, cooking at home, and improving their home themselves.
This may not be a reversion to pre-industrial homesteading, but it does represent a significant re-functionalization of the home within a post-industrial context for millions of families. Whether this will persist for the long term is yet to be seen, but with inflation and shortages continuing to squeeze the economy, the Do-It-Yourself family will likely be with us for at least a while longer. By choice or under duress, some Americans are going to have to start saying goodbye to their servants.
Chipotle is closed
Childcare is unavailable
Handymen are nowhere to be found
— Brad Wilcox (@BradWilcoxIFS) October 12, 2021