It is the Year 2022 and working from home has become the new “normal”.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced many businesses to allow their employees to work remotely in order to maintain both usual service and social distancing guidelines.
Now that the pandemic is (hopefully) coming to an end, some companies are rethinking their office space needs and wondering if they should allow employees to continue working from home.
But what is the difference between remote work and telecommuting?
- 1 Remote Work:
- 2 Telecommuting (or Telework)
- 3 Remote vs. Telework – Which is better?
- 4 Additional & Emerging Terms
- 5 How Has Covid Affected Remote Work and Telecommuting?
As mentioned earlier, working remotely has become more common in recent years, especially due to the pandemic.
However, remote work is not a new concept – in fact, it has been around for quite some time…
Working Remotely Meaning
Remote work has been defined as working from a location other than a company’s physical office.
This can include working from home, a coffee shop, or even a co-working space – the key factor here is that the location is not the company’s office.
Companies that allow remote work typically have employees who work in different time zones or locations, making meeting in person a bit of a mammoth task.
In order to facilitate communication and collaboration, these companies often use project management software and video conferencing tools.
Working remotely synonym
Working remotely is also sometimes referred to as “telecommuting”, although there is a slight difference between the two (which we will get into later).
Other terms are “distributed team” or “virtual team”, however, there are many, many more.
Remote working advantages and disadvantages
There are a few pros and cons to consider when working remotely – take a look at these:
Advantages of remote working:
Increased productivity – many people find that they are more productive when working from home, as there are fewer distractions and interruptions.
More flexible hours – as you are not tied to a 9-5 office schedule, you can often be more flexible with your hours, which can be great for those with families or other commitments.
Cost savings – working from home can save you money on things like travel costs and lunch expenses.
No need for formal wear – this one should be pretty self-explanatory!
Disadvantages of remote working:
Isolation – this can be a real kicker; yes, remote working lets you miss out on some (not necessarily all) of the office politics, however, whether we like it or not, even that kind of human interaction is still needed in some form. Most of us need connection and as many found during the various lockdowns of 2020-21, being completely isolated from the rest of the world can really do a number on our brains.
Distractions – although working from home can help some people focus more, it can also lead to more distractions, as there are more things around the house that can pull your attention away from work.
Difficult to “switch off” – when your office is in your home, it can be difficult to separate your work life from your personal life, which can lead to burnout.
Telecommuting (or Telework)
Telecommuting, on the other hand, has a more specific definition.
The word “telecommute” was first coined in the 1970s and is a combination of the words “telephone” and “commute”.
What is Telecommuting?
Telecommuting is defined as working from home, but with a few key differences.
Firstly, telecommuters are usually employed by a company to work remotely, rather than being self-employed or working for a company that allows remote work.
Secondly, telecommuters typically have a regular schedule and set hours that they work, just as they would if they were working in an office.
Lastly, telecommuters usually have a dedicated workspace in their homes, which is set up specifically for work (as opposed to working from the kitchen table or sofa).
Teleworking advantages and disadvantages
As with remote working, there are a few (somewhat overlapping) pros and cons to consider around teleworking – let’s have a look:
Advantages of telecommuting:
Avoid office distractions – as you are working from home, you can avoid many of the distractions that come with working in an office, such as colleagues coming over to your desk or noisy open-plan offices.
Flexible hours – telecommuters often have more flexible hours than those who work in an office, as they are not tied to a 9-5 schedule.
No need to commute – telecommuting can save you time and money by eliminating your daily commute.
Disadvantages of telecommuting:
Isolation – working from home can be quite isolating, as you do not have the same social interaction as you would in an office environment.
Distractions – again, getting distracted is just as easily done at home – sometimes, the laundry/dishes from last night can scream just as loudly as the work on your laptop or device and it can be hard to not let them win..!
Difficult to “switch off” – sending that last email or making a last-minute phone call before you clock off in the evening can be soooo tempting… Before you know it, you’ve missed something else you really needed to make a priority (like the weekly food shop, a workout or dinner with the kids). Working and living in the same space can be an unexpected challenge for some.
Remote vs. Telework – Which is better?
The answer to this question is, unfortunately, not a simple one.
It depends on a number of factors, such as:
Your role and company – some roles or companies are just not suited to remote/telework. For example, if you work in a customer-facing role or need to be in the office for team meetings, then remote/telework is probably not going to work for you.
Your lifestyle and personality – some people prefer or need the structure of an office environment in order to stay motivated and focused, while others find it stifling. Consider your own working style and needs before making a decision.
Your home set-up – do you have a dedicated workspace at home? Is your internet connection reliable? Do you live alone or with others? All of these factors can impact whether working from home is a viable option for you.
Additional & Emerging Terms
While we’re on the topic, there are a few other terms that are worth mentioning:
A type of telework arrangement where employees have the option to work from home, from a satellite office, or from the main office, depending on their needs on any given day.
An individual who works remotely, often for a company that is based in another city, state, or country.
The term is used to describe the amount of time an individual spends working in comparison to the amount of time they spend on other activities outside of work, such as taking care of family, friends, their home, personal interests, etc.
A team of employees who are based in different locations, often across different time zones.
A distributed team with members from all around the world.
Work from anywhere (WFA)
This is a relatively new term that refers to the ability to work from any location, not just your home.
So, if you have the flexibility to work from a café, co-working space, or even on the beach (lucky you!), then you are said to be working from anywhere.
WFA can be a great option if you find that working from home all the time is getting a bit too much, or if you simply fancy a change of scenery.
A virtual office is an office that exists only in cyberspace.
As a freelancer or small business owner who does not have a physical office space, you may instead use a virtual office. This could involve using a shared workspace, mailbox, or even just an address in a different city/state/country.
A virtual office can be a great way to make your business look bigger and more professional, without the overhead costs of renting an actual office space.
Working from a vacation destination, often combining work with leisure time (although this can be difficult to maintain a good work/life balance)!
How Has Covid Affected Remote Work and Telecommuting?
Covid-19 and the subsequent multiple lockdowns have had a huge impact on the way we work, with many companies and employees alike having to rapidly adapt to a new way of working.
While some companies were already set up for remote work and were able to continue business as usual, others have had to make significant changes in order to enable their employees to work from home.
For many people, working from home has become the new normal and it is likely that this trend will continue even after the pandemic has ended.
As things are now drawing to a close and “normal service” is being resumed, it remains to be seen what the long-term effects of Covid will be on remote work and telecommuting.
There seems to be a mix of businesses that have realized that they gain much more than they lose by allowing their staff to continue to work from home the majority of the time and ones that insist on all members of staff returning to their desks irrespective of any positive influences the last two years may have had on their bottom line.
Many businesses are still reluctant to let go of the idea that if staff is working from home, they lose all control of their workforce.
This couldn’t be further from the truth…
With the right tools and processes in place, working from home can actually increase productivity and efficiency, while also freeing up office space and saving on costs such as rent, electricity, and water.
It is therefore in the best interests of businesses to continue to embrace remote work and telecommuting, even after the pandemic has ended.
Moreover, giving staff a bit of leeway/trust/whatever you want to call it, especially after many have spent the last year or more working from home and being completely relied upon to do so, is only going to result in more content, productive and engaged workforce.
So, what does the future hold for remote work and telecommuting?
While it is difficult to predict the future with any great certainty, it seems likely that the trend toward remote work and telecommuting will continue, even after the pandemic has ended.
This is good news for employees who value flexibility and freedom, and bad news for businesses that are reluctant to embrace this way of working.
Only time will tell what the long-term effects of Covid-19 will be on the way we work, but one thing is for sure, the pandemic has changed the way we work forever.