Nearly 5 million Americans work permanently from a location outside the workplace and many more spend some time each week or month away from the office.
That’s leading to some confusion over what terms like “remote work” and “working from home” actually mean.
So, we’ve put together a brief guide of the terms you need to know as a remote worker to better understand what your employer (or prospective employer) wants from you.
What Is Remote Work?
Remote work tends to be a “catch all” term for different types of working out of the office and can include:
- Those who work from home but also…
- People who work from alternative office locations such as co-working or coffee shops
- People who work in hybrid work where they spend some time in the office and some time out of it
- Remote workers who occasionally attend the office but on no fixed schedule
So what does remote work mean?
It just means any work that is done outside of your company’s usual place of business.
It is facilitated through software tools and uses the Internet to ensure that once work is done it ends up in the right place.
Not all jobs are suitable for being converted to remote work but in today’s information world, many are.
Some people love remote work for the freedom it gives them to create their own working environment and schedule, and others can’t stand it due to the perceived isolation and lack of supervision that it entails.
What Is Working From Home?
Working from home is a subsection of remote work.
Some remote workers’ contracts will specify that they are only allowed to work from home whereas other remote workers (like the author of this article) prefer to work from home than, say, a co-working space.
When you work from home, in theory, you have maximum control over your environment and can minimize distractions and set a schedule that suits your way of life.
However, those with families and pets or who live in busy, noisy neighborhoods may find working from home is more distracting than working in an office.
What Is Flex Work?
Flex work refers to any kind of work where the schedule is flexible. It can apply to remote work but it can also apply to office work.
One of the first roles the author had was working for a QUANGO (Quasi Non Governmental Organization) in the UK.
It required going to the office, but you could do your 40 hours anyway that you liked and for the author that meant 10 hours a day, Monday to Thursday and a very long weekend.
Flex work is awesome if you want the freedom to create a schedule that suits your lifestyle though be warned, if you have colleagues who don’t have flexible schedules it can create jealousy too.
What Is Telecommuting?
A telecommuter is a remote worker that does most of their work on the phone and because of this – it’s most common in the sales and marketing sector.
They may be required to attend the office at times for meetings or major discussions but are generally free to work from anywhere.
Many sales agents will do a lot of work from their cars making calls on the way to sales meetings with clients or suppliers.
People who telecommute tend to appreciate the freedom it gives them to organize their work around the demands of the job and that it allows them to continue to touch base in person with people in the office.
Final Thoughts On Remote Vs Work From Home Options
Working from home is a subset of remote work and as you can see, there are already several other subsets.
It’s important to know what your employer expects you to do under a remote work contract, as, for example, a would-be digital nomad is going to struggle with a “work from home” contract rather than a “work anywhere” one.
It may be possible to “work around” such contractual terms but it’s not advisable, if the employer discovers you’re doing this – you could get fired.
So make sure to sign a remote work contract that suits your lifestyle demands.