Telecommuting has boomed in popularity in recent years, with more than 37 million people now working from home at least half of the time. This represents a 103% increase since 2005 and a 6.5% increase in the last year alone. Because of the huge increase in popularity, many people wonder about the history of the telework revolution. Here’s what you need to know.

1972-1980: The Early Years

The term “telecommuting” was first coined in 1972 by Jack Nilles. At that time, Nilles was working remotely on a complex NASA communication system. He told people what he was doing was “Telecommuting”, and the phrase was born.

Shortly thereafter, in 1979, author Frank Schiff coined the term “flexplace” and wrote a well-read article for the Washington Post called “Working From Home Can Save Gasoline.” This post is often credited with beginning to popularize the idea of telework and lead to the first conference about the subject, which took place in 1980.

1992-2008: The Rise

In 1992, the Interagency Telecommuting Pilot Project was born. The Project’s entire purpose was to popularize the use of external telecenters for government agencies in Washington D.C. Two years later, in 1994, September 20th was named “Employee Telecommuting Day”, and the concept began to gain steam.

In 1995, ESPN streamed a radio broadcast of a baseball game to thousands of subscribers using technology created by an innovative company called Progressive Networks. While this move may have seemed unrelated, it laid the foundation for the HTTP-based streaming revolution that would help make telecommuting possible over the next several years.

A year later, in 1996, The National Telecommuting Initiative was developed with the mission of increasing the popularity of telework arrangements, specifically within the Government. The Initiative had a strong effect and, in 2004, congress pushed forth an appropriations bill that specifically encouraged the use of remote work arrangements within Federal agencies. In 2008, Microsoft launched Smooth Streaming technology and tech companies across the country began to focus more on streaming technology, which would later be used for everything from streaming media to hosting web-based meeting platforms and collaboration zones for remote workers.

2009-2015: The Boom

By 2009, telecommuting had effectively taken off. According to the United States Office of Personnel Management, more than 100,000 federal employees were working remotely during that year. By 2010, the Government had passed the Telework Enhancement Act, which sought to make telecommuting more secure and effective for Federal employees.

By 2012, it seemed like telework would be a widely accepted and sought-after work arrangement, until Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced that the company would no longer allow telecommuting. While many experts thought that the move may have a negative impact on telecommuting as a whole, it didn’t, and today some of the best companies in the country are offering telecommuting positions.

Many experts are calling for the popularity of telework to rise exponentially within the coming year. In addition to offering more flexibility, telework also results in a greater level of productivity for employees and lower costs for employers, which creates better results for both the company and the employee.


The history of telecommuting is extensive, and it’s clear that the popularity of remote work will only increase as the years pass. More and more companies are offering telework positions and upwards of 37% of U.S. employees state that they would be “very likely” to telecommute full time if it were an option within their company. In light of this, it’s clear that we will see telecommuting continue to grow and change throughout the coming years. To learn more about the history of telework, contact Allied Telecom today.