What’s the Difference Between Working Remotely and Telecommuting?
Understanding the differences between remote work and telecommuting is an important nuance. Many organizations—and even workers—view the two as synonymous. But is that really the case? The following chart distinguishes between remote work and telecommuting:
• Able to work from anywhere without restrictions on time zones, state, or even country
• Often never come to an office for meetings or team-building activities; some will fly or drive to central office very few weeks or months
• Other colleagues—from some to all—may work remotely and located across time zones and even different countries
• Not required to come to an office location on all of the time but may need to reside within reasonable driving distance of the office
• Expected to attend meetings and work from a designated office—from multiple times per week to multiple times per month (varies)
A search on Google for remote work versus telecommuting reveals interesting results. Telecommuting produces 4.29 million findings—obviously a large number. But remote work produces 1.36 billion! The gap between the two continues to grow—likely due to the expanded focus in remote work because of the pandemic (and quite possibly because of “remote work” is the prevalent category nomenclature).
Remote and Telework Is Here to Stay
Research conducted by McKinsey shows that between 20% to 25% of the workforce can work outside of the office three to five days a week without losing productivity. This has prompted many organizations to adopt hybrid work models, with many reducing the amount of office space—including some that have eliminated all office space—as the world emerges from the pandemic. Per a survey by CBRE earlier this year, 80% of large businesses and two-thirds of mid-size businesses intend to move to hybrid work environments where workers no longer come to a fixed office and sit in an assigned workspace five days a week, 8 eight hours a day. EMSI Burning Glass examined remote job postings over the past year and found that the number of monthly postings now is up nearly 190% over pre-COVID-19 numbers.
Telecommuting workers normally must live geographically close to a company office. They also are required to work from an office location and attend meetings in the office. Sometimes, the business may designate certain days when the workforce needs to be in the office. In other instances, it may be staggered so that there is sufficient workspace and meeting space for all of the workers in the office on any given day. Telecommuters may come to the office several times per week; others may come to the office a few times per month.
Telework remains a great way for businesses to attract and retain top talent. It also enables businesses to reduce capital expenditures (CapEx) for permanent office space. Managers can also have regular or sporadic in-person meetings to check-in on projects and provide coaching and mentoring. These in-person workplace interactions help teleworkers avoid the feelings of isolation and loneliness that remote workers sometimes experience.
Defining Remote Work
Remote workers are those who rarely or never go to a fixed office location. They do not live—or are not required to do so—in a geographic location that is within driving distance of a company office. Some may not even live in the same country as their company’s office. In a Flexjobs’ study conducted last summer, 58% of workers indicated they want to remain full-time remote employees post-pandemic, while 39% expressed a design for hybrid work arrangements. The outtake from the survey is that a paltry 3% of workers wanted to go back to a permanent office and workspace five days a week.
8 Recommendations for Productive Telework and Remote Work
Organizations hoping for a return to permanent workspace for most—if not all—of their workspace are likely to discover dwindled applicant pools and spikes in talent attrition. Now that workers have a taste of remote work, the genie is out of the bottle and it will be difficult to return non-remote (telework) models. For organizations embracing telework and remote work models, the following recommendations will help ensure their workforces sustain high levels of productivity and collaboration:
1. Maintain regular work hours. Certainly, flexibility is one of the attractive options of remote work and telework. But setting hours of operation for a remote workforce is important.
2. Use project management tools. There is a plethora of tools out there, and they can help teleworkers and remote workers stay on time and budget with projects, facilitate collaboration, and more.
3.Create morning routines. One of the ways teleworkers and remote workers can get off to a good start each day is via a morning routine that enables them to focus and prioritize work tasks.
4. Set home workspace rules. Working from home can come with numerous distractions, and it is important for remote workers and teleworkers to establish ground rules with others in their household—from quiet times, to meeting times, to shared equipment, to times for lunch.
5. Schedule breaks. For those working from a workspace in a fixed office, breaks naturally take place throughout the day. Sedentary work can have health and mental repercussions. Thus, it is important for those working remote to schedule breaks, take walks, and exercise during the day.
6. Break up the work location routine. Isolation and loneliness can be problematic for those who never or rarely interact with colleagues, partners, and customers in-person. Coworking spaces like those from Davinci Meeting Rooms are a great way for teleworkers and remote workers to work from a professional workspace that affords them with an opportunity to interact with other professionals.
7. Fully equip your workers. Teleworkers and remote workers need the right technology tools to be productive. It starts with the right monitor, keyboard, mouse, chair, desk, printer, and more. It also includes the right software. Many businesses brought in ergonomic consultants for their employees before the pandemic. It would be wise for them to do the same for their remote workers and teleworkers post-pandemic.
8. Use professional meeting rooms. Rented meeting space like Davinci Meeting Rooms offers businesses the opportunity to get remote workers into one location for training and team-building sessions. They come with lobber greeters, presentation and collaboration tools, administrative support, and more.
We could add other recommendations to the above list such as extending in-office perks to telework and remote workers, overcommunicating using tools like Slack or Microsoft Teams, and more. But the above list is a great starting point. There is much excitement about telework and remote work today—by both employers and employees—and there is good reason. With the right processes and tools in place, employers and employees will reap the rewards.