Telecommuting: What is it?

Also called telecommuting, telework refers to the rising workforce trend that allows employees to join meetings and perform other work-related tasks outside of a traditional office. Most of the time this means an employee is working from home, but teleworking locations can also include coffee shops, hotels, co-working spaces, libraries, convention centers, or any other location with a reliable Internet connection. These types of working arrangements are highly reliant on hardware and software programs that foster communication, productivity, and security.

Telework vs. remote work

Telework is sometimes used interchangeably with remote work, but telework/telecommuting usually indicates that the employee is physically located in proximity to the company’s office and chooses to work in another location. Remote work, on the other hand, suggests that the employee is located further away from the office and works from home (or another external location) full time.

Benefits and challenges of teleworking

Benefits of teleworking include reduced real estate footprint, reduced environmental destruction, and improved employee satisfaction/retention. When an employer allows employees to work outside the office, they effectively shrink the square footage they need to maintain day-to-day business operations. This saves money that can be repurposed for other initiatives. It also means companies are able to neutralize their carbon emissions. Plus, fewer commuters mean less traffic pollution. Numerous studies have also shown that most employees enjoy teleworking because of the flexibility and work-life balance it offers a sentiment that usually indicates higher employee retention.

Challenges of teleworking include security, communication/collaboration, and employee engagement; however, technology can help address these challenges. A company-wide virtual private network (VPN) and mandatory backups will help with security and data recovery. Video conferencing tools like Zoom or Webex and instant messaging apps like Slack or Teams help ensure employees are able to communicate in real time and stay connected despite physical distance. Many employers are also using technology to extend company culture beyond the walls of the office. Continuous learning programs, frequent check-ins, virtual team outings, and project management tools like Asana or Wrike will help make sure no employee feels isolated or uninformed.

Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal
Vangie Beal is a freelance business and technology writer covering Internet technologies and online business since the late '90s.

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