It’s no secret that remote work has skyrocketed in recent years. Thanks mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic, the evident benefits of increased flexibility and productivity have cemented this shift in how we work. In our increasingly digital work world, you’ve likely come across the terms telework, telecommuting, and remote work.
While we know numerous individuals, and even entire companies, have transitioned from in-person work to working from home, which of these terms apply to them? We may hear these labels used interchangeably, but are they the same?
To make you a pro on non-traditional work arrangements and their meanings, let’s go over the definitions of telework, telecommuting, and remote work, as well as the differences between each of these employment types.
What Is Teleworking?
Teleworking is a work arrangement in which a worker works at home or remotely from an offsite location while maintaining contact with colleagues and employers through technological devices. Teleworking typically refers to employees who reside near a company’s main office and physically commute to work regularly or on occasion, but perform telework at home, another offsite location, office branch, co-working space, and client’s location. However, teleworking may also refer to workers who work outside the office.
Teleworking is common for jobs that involve digital tools like data analytics, writing, and customer service. Some examples of work arrangements that involve teleworking include:
- A software consultant who travels to a client's location to discuss projects
- A company’s customer service representative who answers calls from a home office
- A freelance graphic designer who commutes to the work studio each day and communicates with clients virtually
- A sales manager who works in a physical office for three days a week and a home office (teleworking) for two days a week
Teleworking may or not refer to solely working from home but rather away from a company’s central office and using digital tools for communication. Teleworkers may commute to a location that is not their home, but they typically are not working with co-workers in person. The term teleworking may apply to numerous remote work set-ups.
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What Is Telecommuting?
Telecommuting is a form of teleworking in which workers do not commute to a physical location but instead work from their digital devices. Telecommuting may refer to working from home for a short period or permanently. The term telecommuting refers more to an employee’s lack of commuting to a physical location, reducing their daily travel.
Some employers may refer to telecommuters as employees who occasionally telecommute or those who solely telecommute. When employees telecommute, they always telework/ work remotely or communicate with team members, clients, or customers via technological devices. In other words, work comes to telecommuters rather than telecommuters traveling to work.
Telecommuting jobs include jobs that one can complete from home, using only digital devices and tools to communicate with others and complete work. These jobs may include:
- Customer service representatives
- Web design
- Social media managers
- Content writers
- Software engineers
- Virtual assistants
- Online business owners
All of these jobs have the potential to be completed entirely at home. Traveling to one’s devices to begin one’s day at these remote jobs is what we call telecommuting’. Additionally, the occasional act of completing telework or remote work would also involve telecommuting.
Discussions using the term telecommuting often involve the benefits of eliminating traditional work commutes. The removal of physical commuting allows telecommuters to have more time and energy to complete work, sometimes cutting out multiple wasted hours and gas expenses from one’s day.
What Is Remote Working?
Remote working is a broad term that describes working from anywhere, whether a home office, co-working space, café, or a whole country. Remote workers often work anywhere, regardless of where a company’s head office is located, and they usually do not reside near it. Remote working may also refer to hybrid work in a hybrid work environment.
Remote work can include both teleworking and telecommuting. People who work remotely from a home office are also telecommuting to work. However, when people work remotely from a physical location like a coffee shop, they are teleworking but not telecommuting.
Remote working may also include working as a digital nomad or someone who works remotely from various locations around the world or in one’s country. Remote working can be synchronous or asynchronous with colleagues, as they may not reside in the same time zones.
Some examples of remote working include:
- Working for a company from a home office, regardless of whether or not one resides near their company’s physical office
- A freelance writer who works remotely while traveling to different countries under work visas. Some countries even offer digital nomad visas for precisely this!
- Working as a self-employed online business owner from one’s home, perhaps working at cafes or co-working spaces as well
When remote working, workers also have total control of their work environments, and they are typically not in-person with any other co-workers or clients. Remote work can always be completed at home, but it may also be completed at different locations. Remote work has increased in recent years as more people experience this type of work's flexibility and improved work-life balance.
What Are the Differences Between Telework and Remote Work?
The terms telework and remote work are often used interchangeably. However, there are subtle differences between the two work arrangements. Let’s go over the main differences between telework vs. remote work.
Employees who telework more commonly reside near their company’s office or headquarters. Thus, telework is more often used to describe those who commute to the office some days per week but telework on other days of the week. Additionally, teleworkers may be required to commute to separate branches or client locations to perform work. Yet, their activities would still be telework as they digitally communicate with the rest of their teams. Remote work, on the other hand, may apply to workers regardless of whether or not they reside near a company’s office. The term remote work is thus more commonly used to refer to individuals who work in varying locations around a state, country, or the world.
Another difference is that remote work typically involves working alone in one physical location. Telework may include working with clients or other people outside of the office location. Remote workers have control over their work location and environment, while teleworkers might not. For example, remote workers may work from anywhere, with or without other people around them. At the same time, teleworkers may be asked to work remotely from a certain location or with individuals.
Finally, remote work is more commonly used nowadays than telework to describe remote work arrangements like work-from-home and hybrid work. The term telework dates back to the 1970s when people could also work remotely using the telephone. However, remote work is the increasingly common type of work done anywhere using Wi-Fi.
What Are the Differences Between Telework and Telecommuting?
Teleworking and telecommuting are commonly interchanged in conversation, but differences between telecommuting and telework. The prefix tele, tele, means “to or at a distance,” meaning work is completed at a distance from one’s work location. While all telecommuting is teleworking, not all teleworking is telecommuting. Let’s explain why this is.
Telecommuting involves zero physical commutes to a work location. The only commute with telecommuting is from one’s bed after waking in the morning to one’s computer and devices. On the other hand, telework may be completed at a location that requires a commute, such as to a café, company branch, or client location. This brings us to the difference between telecommuting vs. remote work as well, as all telecommuting involves remote work. Still, not all remote work involves telecommuting since remote workers may work from any location.
Overall, the terms telework vs. telecommute are similar and often referred to equally. Technically speaking, teleworking describes the act of working remotely, while telecommuting describes the act of commuting remotely. Since these terms are often used interchangeably, employers and recruiters need to detail the nature of their work environments, so everyone is on the same page.
Handle Telecommuting Efficiently with Skuad
While all under the same umbrella of the digital work world, the terms telework, telecommute, and remote work have slight differences. Regardless of one’s specific work arrangement choice, offering these flexible arrangements benefits any company. Skuad helps businesses build remote teams quickly, allowing for efficient and easy management of one’s globally-dispersed remote workers. Schedule a demo with Skuad today to learn more about taking your teams digital.