The Conservative Case for Remote Work (Frank DeVito, 3/18/24, Public Discourse)

[T]he economy has been steadily moving out of homes and into centralized locations for the last two centuries or so. Yes, this has meant mass production of cheaper goods, including those essential to keeping people alive. But there has been a massive downside: it has become the norm for people to spend more of their waking hours at a workplace than at home. Critics of feminism (properly) lament that the cultural norm for new mothers is to leave their children in another’s care in order to work outside the home (and they face increasing pressure to do so in light of a poor economy). Conservatives also speak (correctly) about the disastrous effects of fatherlessness on children and family life. Might it not be worth asking, then, if there ought to be a conservative case against normalizing traffic-jammed commutes and long hours in an office when it isn’t strictly necessary?

Remote Work: A Return to Family-Centered Life

The massive move to remote work has opened many eyes. All of a sudden, fathers spent their lunch breaks with their wives and children rather than alone in a cubicle or with colleagues. Work breaks meant stepping outdoors with children or holding babies, rather than idly gossiping with co-workers. Working professionals realized that it was possible to fulfill their professional responsibilities, get their work done . . . and still live in the midst of their own families. For many workers, remote work is not primarily about cutting out commuting time or luxuriously working in sweatpants, but about a return to a family-centered economic life. This is about much more than an equation to properly achieve “work–life balance”; it is about an opportunity to rediscover a properly ordered life.

Of course, there are jobs where remote work is not possible. Policemen must be on the streets, pilots must be in the cockpits, and laborers must be in the factories where things are actually made. But for white-collar workers, the “laptop class,” there is no universal reason why they must leave their homes and families to do their laptop work in a central office rather than at home—at least not every day.