Work From Home

Twitter's Recent Announcement and the Future of Family Work

In a bold move, Twitter  informed its employees last week that many of them will now be allowed to work from home permanently.[1] Square, a financial services company, announced the same.[2] (The two companies share a CEO, Jack Dorsey.) The question now becomes: Is “work-from-home” the wave of the future?

Twitter and Square aren’t the only companies finding that their employees rather like working from home. More and more experts are suggesting that far from being a temporary measure, remote work may quickly become the new norm.[3]  TaxJar, an entirely remote company, recently blogged, “We recommend treating a temporary remote work situation less like a field trip and more like what it truly is—the future of work.”[4]

The transition to more work-from-home options has been long forthcoming, and represents an answer to some obvious problems with offices—including long commutes, distracting office environments[5], and a rigid structure that doesn’t allow for work/family flexibility or emergencies, or that assumes everyone operates best from 9-5. (Some estimates even suggest that the arrangement can also save employers about $11,000 per employee annually.) But working from home is hardly futuristic. For centuries—millennia, really—it was the only option. Agricultural laborers “worked from home” on their own small farms, or as tenant farmers. Craftsmen such as cobblers, carpenters, or butchers “worked from home” in small shops, adjacent to their living quarters. Only with the advent of the Industrial Revolution did it become necessary to leave home to work—because that’s where the machines were. Now, with the advent of the Internet, more knowledge-based jobs, and even smaller-scale production technology (the 3-D printer, for example), more Americans are choosing to take their work lives back home.

This shift may lead to a couple of interesting outcomes, which work hand-in-hand. What will happen to any number of places in Silicon Valley when the tech giants go remote? What will happen to many, many other large cities if the behemoth office buildings begin to empty out? Perhaps large workplaces will go the way of retail—giant malls now lie empty or near-empty, as shoppers have taken their business online or even to small boutiques in recovering downtowns. At The Federalist, Mitch Hall writes that extended lockdowns and an uptick in remote work may cause many millennials to leave cities.[6] There’s no point, Hall says, in paying the sky-high expenses associated with city living when paychecks are few and far between and if the cultural and other activities are no longer available, and won’t be for months. It may be too soon to speculate, but perhaps a significant shift in—and away from—cities is about to begin.

For families, these changes could be profound. In The Natural Family Where It Belongs, Allan Carlson argues for the “evident bond of the healthy, natural family to an agrarian—or agrarian-like—household, where the ‘sexual’ and ‘economic’ are merged through marriage and childbearing and where the family is defined in considerable measure by its material efforts.”[7] The so-called “companionate family,” united merely by bonds of affection, has proved too fragile. Mere emotion cannot hold families together. But a productive home, one in which work, the education of children, and the care of the elderly all merge has more than emotional ties to bind it. It has proven itself over millennia to be resilient. And for the most part, this type of family has historically existed outside of the city where it has room and can afford to function better.

Imagine a world where children can actually see what their parents do all day and even contribute in some small but meaningful way to their family’s wellbeing. Imagine a home where Mom and Dad take shifts at their work, while juggling homeschooling efforts, meal preparation, or caretaking of the elderly. This is what Carlson calls the “function-rich home,” a vibrant place, full of life, which stands in stark contrast to the empty residences that fill most suburbs when parents commute into work while kids go to school or daycare all day.

This is a place full of life, full of love. It’s certainly full of new challenges, also, but a place where families can begin to really know and understand each other again, and begin to work together towards more common goals.


[1] Margaret O’Mara, “Twitter Could End the Office as We Know It,” New York Times (May 19, 2020), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/19/opinion/twitter-work-from-home.html.

[2] Zoe Schiffer, “Square announces permanent work-from-home policy,” TheVerge.com (May 18, 2020), available at https://www.theverge.com/2020/5/18/21261798/square-employees-work-from-home-remote-premanent-policy-ceo.

[3] Mike Thomas, “What COVID-19 Means for the Future of Remote Work,” BuiltIn.com (April 5, 2020), available at https://builtin.com/remote-work/covid-19-remote-work-future.

[4] Heather Wilson, “Employees Working Remotely for the First Time? Here are 5 Tips from the Experts,” Life At Tax Jar (March 4, 2020), available at https://life.taxjar.com/employees-working-remotely-first-time-tips/.

[5] Ethan Bernstein and Ben Waber, “The Truth About Open Offices,” Harvard Business Review (November-December 2019), available at https://hbr.org/2019/11/the-truth-about-open-offices.

[6] Mitch Hall, “Extending Lockdowns Will Make Millennials Like Me Abandon U.S. Cities,” The Federalist (May 18, 2020), available at https://thefederalist.com/2020/05/18/extending-lockdowns-will-make-millennials-like-me-abandon-u-s-cities/.

[7] Allan Carlson, The Natural Family Where It Belongs: New Agrarian Essays (New Brunswick: Transaction, 2013), ix-x.

is the managing editor of The Natural Family, the quarterly publication of the International Organization for the Family.

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