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Telecommuting vs Telework vs Remote Work: Differences, Pros and Cons

Key Takeaways

1. Telecommuting is a best-of-both-worlds option. It keeps employees connected to a physical, shared workspace, while also allowing for a remote option that reduces their travel time and often increases satisfaction and retention.

2. Teleworking implies a connection to an office location while referring to all forms of work that are done at a distance, like telecommuting.

3. Remote work refers to all work that is done outside of a traditional on-site location. Remote work does not have to be connected to an office location and can be conducted anywhere, so long as it supports the tools needed to complete the work (e.g., outlets, WIFI). Telecommuters, virtual employees, and freelancers all engage in remote work.

4. Are you asking yourself,  “Telecommuting vs telework vs remote work, which is best for me?“: 1) assess the needs of your company and employees, 2) consider what work could potentially be conducted remotely, and 3) decide what roles could be fully remote and what needs to be connected to on-site resources.

5. If remote work options could benefit you and your company, consider utilizing a Global PEO that takes care of hiring, payroll, taxes, and other location-specific employment regulations so you can have access to a global workforce. 

Introduction

Understanding the nuances behind remote work terminology can give you a clearer picture of what is possible—and what is best for you. While terms like telecommuting, telework, and remote work overlap in the sense that they all entail various forms of working remotely, they each offer unique opportunities and challenges.

The prefix tele means “at a distance.” Think of words like telephone, television, and telegram—each of them expresses a particular thing that happens over a distance. The word remote also implies distance and, in this context, refers to an activity (work) that is done away from the place where it usually happens.

Knowing more about these different work options will help you choose what is best for you and your business. 

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is an additional “commute” option for employees who work in a traditional workspace. It typically means that employees who work at a physical location are also able to work at a remote location to some extent.

It is a best-of-both-worlds option—it can help ease the burden of employees’ normal commute and provide respite from the challenges that occur in an office environment, while also keeping them connected to the benefits of a physical, communal workspace.

The remote location could be anything from a home office to another office location. It should be somewhere that reduces an employee’s normal commute.

The amount of time per week or month designated for telecommuting is decided by the employer. The decision should be benefit-driven and explore both the employer’s and employees’ needs, creating an ideal workflow that is beneficial for everyone. Telecommuting one or two days a week might be the most suitable option for certain fields and workflows while working remotely most of the time might be most effective for others.

Telecommuting is a compelling option because it keeps employees connected to a physical home-based location while allowing for flexible off-site work arrangements. This falls into the broader category of “hybrid work”, which is a working style made partly of remote work, and partly of in-office work

Video: Why telecommuting is good for your business

What is Telework?

Telework is an umbrella term that encompasses all forms of work that are done at a distance, like telecommuting. The biggest difference between this and remote work is that telework still implies a connection to an official location. It refers to all the forms of work that can be done remotely (outside of the official workplace).

What is Remote Work?

Remote work refers to all work that is done outside of a traditional on-site location. Working from home (WFH) is a wonderful example of a commonly practiced type of remote work but is not limited to it.

Remote work can refer to telework done by traditional employees, as well as the work done by remote support staff (“virtual employees”). It also refers to the independent work done by freelancers / contractors and traveling remote workers (“digital nomads”).

Remote work can virtually take place anywhere that is conducive to the nature of the work—at home, in a co-working space, in a hotel, at a café, on a beach, etc. The location must also support whatever tools are needed to complete the work (e.g., outlets, WIFI). It is extremely versatile and supports different lifestyles, like traveling.

The most common categories of remote work are as follows: development and IT, design and creative, writing and translation, sales and marketing, admin and customer support, finance and accounting, as well as branches of finance, legal services, engineering, and architecture. These categories encompass thousands of skill sets.

Telecommuting vs remote work: Which is the best for your company?

To find what work options will ultimately set you and your business up for success, several factors are worth your consideration before you implement a plan.

  1. First, assess the needs—of both the company and its employees.
  • Consider employee satisfaction and retention: According to Global Workplace Analytics, over three-quarters of Americans currently want to work remotely at least once a week. For those employees who were asked what they would do if their workplace did not allow work options after the pandemic, just under half said they would look for another job. Find out what options your employees prefer if applicable.
  • Consider costs and savings: Global Workplace Analytics estimates (based on U.S. employers) that the average company savings per half-time telecommuter are $11,000 a year. They also estimate that employees can save between $600 to $6,000 a year by working remotely half the time. Other costs to consider are remote set-up and equipment costs to ensure employees have what they need to work remotely and ergonomically.
  • Consider productivity: Think through the ideal workflow for any potential telecommute/remote positions. Identify any points of distraction to determine what blend of environments would best enhance productivity (e.g., focus, creativity, collaboration). Remember that some on-site employees might not have access to a remote environment that is suitable. The effectiveness of telecommuting and remote work will depend on the person, the job, and the company’s support.
  • Consider company culture: While there are certainly ways to create a remote-friendly work environment for your employees, this takes intentionality. Think about how much your team needs in-person interaction, collaboration, and motivation to be most effective. Newer and younger hires might need more in-person support and guidance initially.
  1. With those factors in mind, identify what elements of the work done within your company could be done remotely. They will likely fall under one of the common categories of remote work noted above.
  1. Next, decide whether that work needs to be conducted by employees who are geographically grounded near an on-site location, or whether any work could be conducted completely remote.

Consider telecommuting options for employees if—in order to carry out the work required—they need to be able to be on-site at least some of the time.

Consider hiring fully remote employees, contractors, or freelancers where possible to globally expand your talent pool, reduce costs, and increase scalability. Read more here about what a global workforce is and all the advantages that can come with it.

Is telecommuting the solution?

Does telecommuting fix some of the "cons" of remote work?

Conclusion

Though the term telecommuting was first coined in the 1970s, the explosion of technological advances has opened the door to limitless ways of exploring hybrid and remote work options.

With limitless options also comes new challenges. To give you access to a global workforce while mitigating all the HR challenges, Horizons can help with hiring, onboarding, and paying employees anywhere in the world. If you want to further explore the benefits of hiring remotely, get in touch with one of our international hire experts.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

Telecommuting is remote work done by an employee who still works out of a physical location part of the time. Remote work refers to all work that occurs outside of a traditional office environment.

The most common type of remote work is conducted from home, yes; but it is not limited to the home. Remote work can be done anywhere, so long as the environment supports the tools needed to do the work.

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