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It’s About Time column: Working from home is nothing new

Bill Kight
It’s About Time
Bill Kight

Many of us working from home during this crisis may think this way of making a living is somewhat new, and only possible since home desktop computers and laptops became available.

But not so, not by a longshot.

Think back, way back, to the time when people lived in caves around 1 million years ago. One day Gork came in from a mammoth hunt and uttered that famous four-letter word for the first time, “This is too much like work.”

If you think about it, there were jobs to do at home before going outdoors to find food. Arrowheads had to be fashioned from cores, quarried rock about the size of two large fists (See “How to make an Ancient Mesolithic style arrow” on YouTube).

Already gathered and stashed in the cave were bird feathers and seasoned willows for shafts ready to be worked into arrows around the home fire.

Women hand ground wild grasses on rock slabs, sewed garments and painted on the cave walls. All from their home.

A few thousands of years later in Medieval Europe peasants lived in what were called longhouses with one end devoted to the animals, the other end for living quarters and the middle a kitchen. Other activities besides preparing and cooking food occurred in the kitchen, such as spinning the wool for weaving or making butter and cheese.

After Medieval times craftspeople continued working out of their homes, making among other things shoes, clothing, watches and specialty wares with private quarters elsewhere in the same building.

The Industrial Revolution changed the means of making a living from home to toiling in factories or going to offices away from home or traveling to the job site.

This model is still largely adhered to today with a nine to five work schedule although allowing work times that best suit employees, called flextime, is available to many.

Not everyone is happy about trying to balance work time with being at home. My wife, Kate, has an associate who is trying to work from home with two small children underfoot. What a challenge.

The one result of so many people working from home out of necessity may result in more companies modifying work schedules and locations once things return to some normalcy.

We must also recognize that many people who are now unemployed could well lose their jobs because some businesses may not be able to recover financially.

One of our friends makes her living housekeeping and has had all her clients cancel her services. How will she be able to pay for groceries, rent, utilities … until things get better?

History has shown that Americans pull together for the greater good when disaster strikes. And for sure we are living and dying in the largest health care crisis our country has ever seen in our lifetime.

History will record our efforts if we comport ourselves in the appropriate manner — locally, nationally and globally. The world is watching us to see if we live up to the highest standard measurable, that of caring for one another.

In my own personal history in incident management, I have witnessed altruism many times on major disasters such as the Exxon Valdex oil spill, Yellowstone Fires and the 2013 Colorado Floods.

One incident that stands out in my mind, the Boulder, Colorado, Fourmile Canyon Fire on Labor Day in 2010. One gentleman came up to me and volunteered to help do whatever was needed though his home was one of the 169 houses that had been destroyed.

If we weather this storm together caring for one another we will all be better for it. Kate and I decided to pay our housekeeper friend her normal rate while we shelter in place.

Each of us will have our own way to help one day at a time.

Bill Kight is the executive director of the Glenwood Springs Historical Society and writes a monthly column about history. He can be reached at 970-945-4448.


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