In his 1980 book The Third Wave, the futurist Alvin Toffler predicted the rise of the “electronic cottage”. The idea was that technology would become so ubiquitous that working from home would replace the 9-5 slog in a cubicle, in the process helping to “glue the family together again”. As Iain Gately, the author of Rush Hour: How 500 Million Commuters Survive the Daily Journey to Work, put it: “The power to work anywhere and everywhere — have laptop, will travel — or stay at home according to one’s mood, seized the imaginations of Generation X: every day could be a No Pants Day.”
Yet that future has not arrived. Smartphones and laptops may be everywhere, but they have not given many white-collar employees the opportunity to work full-time in pyjamas from log cabins.
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