Telework Vs. Telecommuting Vs. Remote Work

August 19, 2023
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The post-pandemic world has ushered in a transformative era in approaching work and defining a workspace. 

Sir Richard Branson once remarked, "We like to give people the freedom to work where they want, safe in the knowledge that they have the drive and expertise to perform excellently, whether they [are] at their desk or in their kitchen." 

According to a recent Gartner survey, this sentiment became a reality for many, as a staggering 88% of organisations worldwide mandated or encouraged remote work in response to the pandemic. 

With hybrid work also becoming a dominant trend, terms like telework, telecommuting and remote work are frequently used interchangeably. But as a business owner, you must know the nuances of each to make informed decisions about adapting your work environment and culture. 

In this article, we simplify these for you and explain telecommuting vs remote work. 

What is Telecommuting? 

Telecommuting involves performing work outside the conventional office, typically from the comfort of one's residence. The foundational premise rests on leveraging telecommunications technology to facilitate job roles that traditionally require in-person presence.

Features of Telecommuting

  1. Home-Based Operation: Predominantly operate from their homes, using a dedicated workspace or home office
  2. Regular Connectivity: Maintains routine connections with the primary office or headquarters, often through video calls, emails or virtual meetings
  3. Hybrid Flexibility: While many work from home full-time, some may split their time between home and the office.

What is Teleworking?

Teleworking, while often used interchangeably with telecommuting, carries a broader connotation. It refers to the practice of working from a location other than the primary office – this could be a home, a cafe, a park or any other space suitable for work.

Features of Teleworking

Features of Teleworking
  1. Location Diversity: Can operate from a variety of locations, not limited to just their homes
  2. Tech Integration: Involves a mix of telecommunication tools, software platforms and digital devices
  3. Flexible Schedules: Unlike a standard 9-to-5 routine, many teleworkers can set their work hours.

What is Remote Working?

Remote work takes the concept of teleworking a step further. It means working completely independently of the company's primary location. Remote workers might be from their company's headquarters in a different city, state or even country.

Features of Remote Working

  1. Geographical Independence: Not tied to any specific location and can be found worldwide
  2. Extended Autonomy: They may operate more independently, determining their schedules and work methods.
  3. Diverse Communication Tools: Utilise many tools to stay connected, from Slack to Zoom
  4. Time-Zone Considerations: Necessitates constant collaboration across varied time zones

Telecommuting Vs Remote Work: Understanding the Major Differences

Remote work and telecommuting may seem synonymous, suggesting working outside the traditional office environment. However, there are clear distinctions between the two such as:

Location and Degree of Separation

Telecommuting involves working from a location close to the main office, most commonly one's home. While telecommuters may often work from home, they might still be expected to attend in-person meetings or attend the office on specific days.

For example, a software developer in Silicon Valley might telecommute three days a week, working from her home in San Jose, but she commutes to the company's Palo Alto office the other two days for team meetings and collaborative projects.

In the case of remote work, the employee is not located in the company's primary location. Remote workers can be based in a different city, state or country. Their ties to the primary office are minimal, and they might never visit the physical office.

For example, a customer support representative for a New York-based company might be living and working full-time from his apartment in Delhi, India operating entirely independent of the company's primary time zone and locale.

Frequency and Flexibility

Another significant difference in telecommuting vs remote is the flexibility offered to the employee. Telecommuting is often more structured regarding when and how work is conducted. Telecommuters might have a hybrid work model, dividing their time between the home and office.

Remote workers may have more autonomy over their schedules. Their work model is less about location and more about fulfilling job roles and responsibilities, regardless of where they are. 

In contrast, telecommuters, who may be considered a subset of remote workers by some definitions, often maintain a closer connection to the primary office, suggesting they might not enjoy the same degree of geographical freedom.

According to the latest WFHResearch in 2023, 8% of full-time employees work entirely from home. In 2019, almost 40% of unemployed workers in the United States were willing to start working if remote work and flexibility were available. 

Telework and Remote Work: What’s the Difference

Both teleworking and remote work have risen in prominence, especially in the wake of global events emphasising workplace flexibility. 

Here’s the difference between telework and remote work:

Scope and Breadth

Teleworking is a broader concept, encompassing any work outside the traditional office setting. It includes working from home, coffee shops, libraries, co-working spaces or other alternative locations.

For example, a graphic designer might prefer to work in a local café twice a week and work from home on other days. She occasionally visits the office for team brainstorming sessions. She is teleworking, as she's not bound to one particular non-office location.

Remote work is a more specific subset of teleworking that implies a complete separation from the company's primary location. Remote workers may not have any physical office they can or need to report to, and they might be working from entirely different cities, states or countries.

A remote content writer for a US-based company lives in Bangalore, India. She submits her articles online, communicates with her editor via video calls and has never visited the company's primary office. 

Flexibility and Independence

Teleworkers often maintain a more flexible connection to the primary office. They have the option (or sometimes the requirement) to work in-office part of the time or for specific events or meetings.

Remote workers mostly have a fully independent working relationship with the main office. They are not expected to be present in the physical office, and their entire work model revolves around this independence.

A statistical comparison of telework and remote work finds about 80% of workers expressed a desire to work outside the office at least part of the time. This broad statistic encompasses both teleworkers and remote workers. However, when we dig deeper, a study by Owl Labs found that 62% of employees globally work remotely at least occasionally. This illustrates that while many might be teleworking in some capacity, a smaller subset adopts a fully remote work model. 

How Can Rapid Help With Implementing Remote Work?

Having the support of an employer of record (EOR) can smoothen the adaptation to remote work and hiring remote employees. An EOR allows you to establish your presence beyond geographical borders without establishing your own entity. If you target the Indian market, you can definitely partner with Rapid, a trusted partner for your expansion needs. They provide comprehensive solutions tailored to your unique needs, helping you to navigate the complexities of local regulations and ensuring compliance. 

Rapid offers seamless onboarding and management of remote employees in India, which includes making contracts, managing payroll and providing localised benefits.

They also offer extensive assistance for your remote team for any technical or operational challenges that might emerge. This guarantees a seamless workflow and maximum productivity, allowing you to enjoy the advantages of telecommuting and remote working.

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