The phrase ‘telecommuting’ is associated with an endless list of synonyms and juxtaposed terms. You’ve likely heard…
- Distributed work
- Mobile work
- Remote work
- Virtual work
… and many more. What any of these phrases actually mean can vary depending on the context. Both managers and employees tend to use them interchangeably. Sometimes, the terms apply to certain scenarios. Often, work from home is thrown into the mix as well.
Confused? You’re not alone. These phrases were generally less prevalent in our vocabulary prior to their recent adoption in the business world. Now that remote working is the norm, it’s important to understand the associated terminology.
Fortunately, everything you need to know is detailed below. Let’s start by clearing up some definitions.
Work from home and telecommuting both refer to arrangements where operations take place outside of a conventional office environment. However, the former term is characterised by independent professionals who are stationed at home and working for different companies.
Telecommuting, on the other hand, simply means that an employee is clocking in from another location instead of travelling to a central workplace. For interest’s sake, telework sets itself apart by referring specifically to the practice of ‘bringing work to workers’ with the aim of eliminating or reducing commutes. It’s a fairly pointless distinction.
That said, our focus will remain on the differences between telecommuting and working from home.
Comparing work from home vs telecommuting
As we touched on above, people who work from home are typically freelancers or independent contractors. They can also be entrepreneurs. For example, someone who runs a home-based childminder service or hair salon can fall into the work from home bracket. The same is true for anyone who works for different businesses from home on a contract basis.
Telecommuters are only employed at one company, which usually adopts this working arrangement to reduce expenses and allow their staff more freedom and flexibility. Jobs can fit into the telecommuting category as long as they don’t require any special technology or equipment. Here are five more differences between the two concepts.
If you’re working from home, you have the ability to determine your own compensation rates. You can also set your own schedules and take on jobs as you desire. This is unlike telecommuting, where you’re paid a set salary and must follow the working hours set by your employer. You may also be required to attend the central office occasionally.
While telecommuting might not offer as much freedom, it has the upper hand when it comes to equipment. Professionals who work from home need to purchase their own hardware and software to carry out tasks. They also have to possess the required expertise and experience, as they don’t receive on-the-job training.
Employees in telecommuting positions are provided with all of the resources they need by their manager. When you’re telecommuting, your employer may offer some form of training as well. These factors can potentially make it more affordable than working from home.
Most telecommuting jobs rely heavily on the use of modern technology such as laptops, smartphones, project management software, and collaboration tools like video calling. For instance, consider all of the equipment a customer service representative would require. A constant internet connection would be foremost.
However, with work from home jobs, technology might not be necessary at all. It depends on the nature of the work. One thing that most individuals who work from home require is a sizable office space from which to conduct business. But they may not need an internet connection, such as with a home-based beauty salon that’s well-known locally.
Work from home and telecommuting are each established primarily on unique principles and strategies. The majority of organisations establish telecommuting arrangements with the goal of cutting costs and downsizing its workforce. It’s also a relief to staff because this work style saves money otherwise spent on clothing, food, and travel.
Business owners and contractors who work from home tend to be less focused on reducing expenses, as everything is already set in their personal environment. They avoid bearing the financial burdens of paying for an office or premises, commuting to it, and facilitating staff and equipment. Convenience and freedom are generally foremost.
Finally, the rules and requirements that you’re obligated to follow are different between the two work styles. Telecommuting employees must adhere to those laid out by their employer or organisation. It’s also important that they strive to exceed or at least deliver as per the expectations set forth by their company.
The opposite is the case for professionals who work from home. It’s up to them to set the guidelines and procedures that will ensure the highest chances of success. The rules you follow when working from home tend to exist more in your mind than on paper, with the exception of any binding contracts you would sign as a freelancer.
To sum it up, both working from home and telecommuting offer similar benefits.
Where one might have an advantage over the other, it’s usually balanced out in another aspect. For example, working from home can be less restrictive, but telecommuting offers more structure and stability. At the end of the day, your experience working remotely telecommuting is largely what you make of it.
Tips for telecommuting and working from home
Whether you’re getting used to your new telecommuting position or you’re running a business from home, the following tips can help you stay productive, motivated, and successful.
Establish Your Workspace
One of the major concerns that come with telecommuting from home is maintaining your work-life balance. For some people, the line between home and work can become very blurry, which can negatively affect both areas.
If you’re accustomed to working at an office, the separation is physical and should therefore remain that way as much as possible in your new environment. Having a designated workspace will help you stay focused and efficient while allowing you to disconnect and unwind when necessary. Here are some home office guidelines to consider:
- Aim to have natural light entering the space
- Buy a comfortable and ergonomic chair
- Eliminate any non-work distractions
- Keep your desk clean and organised
Define Your Hours
Just as you allocate and separate your workspace, you should have clearly defined business hours. Following a routine helps you stay consistent and will prepare you for the transition back to a normal office if you’re returning in the future. Also, if you’re part of a team, sticking to the same schedule as your colleagues makes everything easier.
Another leading challenge with working from home is dealing with the endless wave of distractions that surround us. Now more than ever, you may be compelled to turn on the news or have long video calls with friends and family. While it’s unreasonable to cut these activities out entirely, it’s certainly beneficial to dedicate specific times for them.
Stay in Touch
Communication is vital to successful work from home telecommute operations. Aside from making sure to regularly socialise and head out when possible, it’s also important to maintain communication with your manager and team. There should be a plan that lays out when and how to check-in so that you can discuss projects and concerns.
Similarly, employers need to draw up remote working policies and procedures to help teams effectively navigate the challenges of telecommuting. You may want to research the policy plans of companies that are successful in this regard. It’s also a good idea to consult business operations experts, who can keep you abreast with key rules and regulations.
When drafting your policy, be sure to account for the permanence of your telecommuting arrangements. This can assist with determining who can continue working from home on a temporary or permanent basis, and which employees are necessary in an internal capacity. You should also outline how team members will approach work. Ask questions like:
- Are there any factors hampering performance when telecommuting?
- Do any roles require changes to the job description?
- Which resources need to be provided to remote workers?
- How will you maintain open lines of communication?
- What can you do to ensure engagement and collaboration?
Leverage Remote Assistance
Many organisations that transition to telecommuting arrangements find that their in-house IT department lacks the resources and expertise required to deliver remote support. This necessitates the need for external assistance, which can be provided by remote IT support in London. These services can benefit your company in numerous ways:
- Affordable access to experienced specialists
- Ability to use cutting-edge hardware and software
- Technicians are available at all times to address any issues
- Internal staff can stay focused on core business functions
- Set pricing structures make costs more predictable
- Improved compliance and security
- Less downtime means higher productivity
Take Care of Yourself
With the kitchen only a few steps away, working from home presents an ideal opportunity to prepare healthy meals in place of the usual office brunch. No less crucial is sufficient sleep and regular exercise. Taking care of your mental and physical health can make a world of a difference to your focus and productivity during business hours.
Understanding Remote Work
So, we know what telecommuting and working from home entail. Where does remote work fit in?
After all, it tends to be the most widely used term to describe any arrangement where work is done outside of the office. Despite that, the origins of the phrase are unclear. Some sources assert that remote work was first used to describe workers using internet technologies to clock in from any location.
Unlike telework, there isn’t any emphasis on the employer-employee relationship. Contractors and freelancers are considered remote workers and today, the term ubiquitously refers to various flexible and telecommute operations. That means remote work can take place at home, in cafes, co-working spaces, or anywhere with a network connection.
Remote Work vs Office Work
How does remote work, be it in the form of telecommuting or working from home, compare to traditional office work? Let’s end off by comparing the two arrangements in the context of some key aspects.
Of course, one of the main draws of remote work is that it can significantly cut down on time and money spent travelling. This can also have mental health benefits as you’re no longer dealing with the stresses of driving and getting stuck in traffic.
However, some people prefer the routine of waking up early and separating the home and office. That’s why many remote employees head to a coffee shop or shared workspace. The bottom line is that nobody enjoys commuting.
With the exception of video conferencing, face-to-face interactions are brought to a minimum when working from home. This is another reason why remote workers head out during business hours. We know that in-person discussions are vital when it comes to building relationships and collaborating effectively.
Businesses need to consider this when establishing communication methods and technologies among remote teams. It’s not uncommon for organisations to host game nights and other social events to help maintain relationships in the face of distanced collaboration.
Working in traditional office environments naturally lends to set schedules and a stronger overall structure. Whether or not the freedom of remote work is better depends on individual preferences. Some employees struggle to disconnect or stay focused when working from home, while others enjoy being able to set their own hours.
As we discussed earlier, remote work has numerous cost-saving benefits for both employers and employees. There are many financial perks to working from home, and you’ll likely be less inclined to go out after work and spend more money on takeaways.
Granted, there are some additional costs to consider. This may include broadband costs and higher utility bills. You’ll also need to invest in telecommuting technologies and other aspects of your office space.
It stands to reason that there’s no clear winner among the different working arrangements that are available today. What best suits you or your business depends on individual circumstances and preferences.
These are just some of the key differences between working from home and telecommuting. For more insights on how technology can enable your team to Work remotely or how to implement a secure WFH and telecommuting workforce, get in touch with totality services and we’ll be happy to help.