Working from home today, compared with 20 years ago – what has changed?

Working from home today, compared with 20 years ago – what has changed?

Published October 7, 2020

Computing, communication, and mobile technology have come a long way since we opened 23 years ago. And working from home was still relatively rare. Given the latest discussions on whether remote working will become “the new normal”, we thought we’d take a look back on how difficult remote working was back then.

Slow connection speeds

20 years ago, the internet was still in its infancy. A dial-up modem and landline was needed to connect to the internet. Download and upload speeds were considerably slower: if you lived close enough to the local BT exchange then an ‘acceptable’ connection of 1 to 1.5Mb/s could be achieved.

Office-only connection

It was unlikely that many businesses, other than those in the technology industry would have consolidated online systems or services. Email could be accessed via remote logon to the corporate office-based email server. Downloading large (1 – 2GB) document attachments was invariably a cue to turn the kettle on and make a cup of tea while you waited for the document to be downloaded, hoping fingers crossed that the modem connection wouldn’t dropout.

You’d also better hope you’d remembered every document you needed to work from home on that week as well. Missing a crucial company invoice from the 1.44MB floppy disk you’d piled everything onto in a rush meant a potentially embarrassing call to the office asking if they could send it over to you, which meant it was time for a second cup of tea.

Ponderous hardware

Most office PCs were large, immobile desktop (or under the desk) machines connected to CRT monitors. Perhaps as a field-based employee you may have been lucky enough to have had a company-funded laptop. At the time these were generally paving-slab-like machines with heavy, limited-lifetime batteries and low resolutions displays.

All these issues would have really limited the effectiveness of the remote employee relative to the convenience of being in the office, most likely making those who had to remote work an issue to be worked around.

Today’s technology

The first decade of the 21st century saw the introduction, acceptance and rapid growth of smartphones and tablet computers. Nowadays, relatively low-cost, highly integrated mobile devices and lightweight, powerful laptop PCs are ubiquitous.

Connected devices

The ability to work productively and effectively at home has been enabled with the proliferation of to high-speed internet, commonly known as broadband, and online cloud-based storage, data access, programs, and applications.

Connecting to a home-based network is now second nature. Domestic Wi-Fi routers which support high-speed internet access now regularly achieve data rates well in-excess of 60 to 70Mb/s.

Collaborative tools

With the development and advent of new technology, effective working from home is now possible for many office-based workers. Integrated collaborative tools such as Microsoft Teams have enabled online phone calls, online video conferencing and online access of shared documents and business data.


Cloud computing enables access from anywhere on the planet with a data connection. Connection speeds and data rates will continue to increase. Working from home or remotely off-site will continue to be an entirely viable and realistic proposition for those that need it. And might even be changing the face of the way we do business for good.

For more info on how to work effectively when working remotely

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Published October 7, 2020

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