Telework vs remote work, what’s the difference, and which one is better? Today, we’re living in the internet era. Many jobs can be done remotely, and this flexibility is an amenity that tons of employees enjoy.
Whether you're teleworking or not, the chance to be a remote worker is the dream for many people.
You’ll hear some people say telework, others mention remote work.
Aren’t they one and the same?
The truth is, they aren’t.
In this article, we’re looking at telework vs remote work more closely.
- The similarities and differences between telework and remote work
- Pros and cons of telework vs remote work
- Who can work remotely
- If doing both is possible
- And more…
Telework vs Remote Work: Similarities and Differences
Telework and remote work are terms that are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between the two.
What is Telework?
Telework or telecommuting is about working from an offsite location, not in the traditional office setting. Some examples of telework locations include:
- Your home office
- A coffee shop
- A library
- Co-working space
According to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, telework is defined as:
…arrangements where the employee is expected to report to work both at an agency worksite and alternative worksite on a regular and recurring basis each pay period.
You are doing virtual work in some type of physical office or space that is conducive to telecommuting.
In the term “telework,” the “tele” part refers to using telecommunication technologies so that work can be done outside of your work office space. You may use Microsoft Teams or other synchronous communication software or programs to communicate and work with your team.
Telework employees usually also have to report to the office in some capacity throughout the year for regular meetings, team meet-ups, etc.
As a result, teleworkers are generally geographically located close to their work office.
In this hybrid work setup, they may need to check in once a week to work in the office, twice a quarter, etc.
When my former employer launched their telework initiative, telework employees would work from home the majority of the time but report to work in the office once a month for in-person meetings, training, etc.
This differs slightly from workers who do remote work, as you’ll see below.
What is Remote Work?
Remote work or mobile work is essentially working from anywhere. These employees work within a remote team or work independently from anywhere at any alternative worksite with internet access. Remote employees aren’t expected to be located near the company workplace and don’t report to work in person, ever.
This flexible work arrangement may also include working non-traditional work hours or working on assignments, where employees manage their own work schedule and hours as long as they meet the project deadline.
Remote work is a flexible work arrangement appealing to digital nomads, students, or anyone who likes a work-from-home setup like this.
There are even jobs where teenagers can work from home!
This arrangement can work well for employers, too. It means they can recruit employees on a global scale and accommodate more workers who need a remote work situation to fit their lifestyle.
Pros and Cons of Telework
- Flexibility: Being able to work flexibly from home or in a quiet work-like setting like a library or cafe.
- Less commute time: Working primarily from home means a much-reduced commute time.
- Increased productivity: Work more productively remotely, free from workplace distractions.
- Money savings: Save money on gas, eating out at lunch, or other work-related expenses associated with in-office work.
- Dependence on technology: You’ll be connected to your work and team via technology. Technical issues or connectivity problems would have a direct impact on your being able to work.
- Must live close to workplace and report to work periodically: Since telework is associated with periodic check-ins at your workplace, it’s not 100% remote, and living close to work would be ideal.
- Isolation: Working in a remote setting can be isolating. No water cooler talks or social interaction with coworkers.
Pros and Cons of Remote Work
- Flexibility: 100% remote work.
- No commute: Work remotely with no commute required since you won’t be required to check in at the workplace.
- Increased productivity: The opportunity to work comfortably in the setting of your choice, personalize your work area, and be free of workplace distractions.
- Business continuity: The business can continue with deployed remote workers in the event of a natural disaster or other unforeseen event.
- Dependence on technology: You’ll be dependent on the internet and technology to do your work.
- Isolation: Social isolation can happen in remote work.
- Team building: Lack of socialization with peers at work and no in-person team-building opportunities.
When evaluating telework vs remote work, we can see that many of the benefits and drawbacks are similar. So, it's really a matter of personal preference and the options available to determine which path is best for you.
Either way, though, it looks like working remotely can pay off, literally.
Telework vs Remote Work: Why Not Do Both?
As you can see, the differences between telework and remote work are pretty small. They are almost identical.
Which option is better?
Can you do both?
There’s really no way to explore both options since doing that would mean exclusively teleworking, but if you like aspects of both, just do telework.
You get the perks of working remotely, with the opportunity to check in at the office periodically, which is great for connecting with coworkers, team building, and improving work-life balance, which can be challenging with remote work sometimes.
For people who like to do independent work with the freedom and flexibility to live and work anywhere, remote work is going to be your best bet.
For workers that enjoy that connection to the workplace locally while still enjoying the perks of working from home so they can be closer to their kids or enjoy the work they do more, go with teleworking.
What Are Some Remote Work Best Practices?
Working from home is generally thought of in a positive light, but it doesn't work for everybody. And, for those it does work for, challenges still exist in a remote work setting.
Work-life balance can be tough. Those lines can be blurred and make separating work from personal life difficult. Social isolation can also exist, ergonomic issues, and even burnout at work!
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind while working remotely:
- Take regular breaks: You need time to take a breather. Getting wrapped up in work and skipping breaks and lunches is easy. That downtime during your work shift is crucial.
- Set boundaries: Choose a part of your house for work only. Don't work from bed or in your bedroom, if possible. This can help a lot with improving work-life balance.
- Practice regular communication: Communicate with leadership and your peers. It's easy to get forgotten about when you're not working in an office where you're seen. Check-in, keep an open-door policy, and embrace video conferences!
For more ideas, read our roundup of 7 highly effective remote work best practices.
Who Can Work Remotely?
Everyone isn’t able to work remotely, sadly. That’s because some careers require in-person, on-site work or work in the field.
For example, in many blue-collar jobs like plumbers, HVAC techs, electricians, or home inspectors, working remotely just isn’t possible.
While admin-based careers or tech-heavy roles like software developers, web designers, or writers can usually work exclusively from home.
And don't miss our article on how to get a remote job here.
Bottom Line: Telework vs. Remote Work
We looked at the differences and similarities between telework vs remote work. While the two terms tend to be used interchangeably sometimes, they are two different things.
We know that telework usually has some ties to working back in the office at least some of the time, while remote work lets you work anywhere you can connect to the internet.
Both options are available for some jobs, depending on your industry. One isn’t necessarily better than the other. It just boils down to your lifestyle and personal preferences.
If you’re looking for remote work options, check out our list of 20 job sites for remote work, plus our top picks!
Which option is your preference, telework or remote work?