Telework Vs. Telecommuting Vs. Remote Work – Are They Different?

Person teleworking.
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If the idea of working from home or away from the office interests you, then you’ve probably heard terms like telework, telecommuting, and remote. 

And often, these words are used interchangeably to describe a work from home arrangement. However, while there are some similarities between them, each is actually different. 

Let’s get into how each is defined, then the differences. That way you are armed with appropriate knowledge as you search for jobs.

What is Telework?

Teleworking is the arrangement where you will work from an alternative location outside of the company headquarters, but are located near an office branch. Your work will allow you to work from home or that approved telework worksite.

This form of work allows some autonomy to get work done and not dread any long commute. And while you can work from home sometimes, you’ll need to be close to a branch of the office to attend meetings and collaborate with co-workers. 

What is Telecommuting?

Telecommuting is a form of work where you complete your job duties from outside the traditional office. It also describes what a telecommuter does, which is getting work done from home via the internet, email, and the telephone.

This form of work may include traveling to meet customers at their office locations and could mean going to the company office a few times a week or month. Although many telecommuting jobs may not require you to be at the office often, you’ll usually have to be at a relatively close distance to the office still.

Traditionally you’d see jobs that were labeled “telecommuting” in fields like customer service, being an assistant, or even data entry jobs. However, in my opinion, telecommuting today really just means to be working from home.

What is Remote Work?

Remote work means you are working from anywhere in the world or at any given location. This can mean you are working at home, but it could also be in a coffee shop, coworking space, while traveling, or even living abroad. And there is no expectation to go to any office. 

Some companies are remote-first and may not have any office location. These organizations might host a virtual retreat and even an in-person retreat on some cadence to get everyone together. But otherwise, you are working wherever the entire time. 

Working remotely gives you more freedom to choose where you work and helps you become more location-independent.

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What is the Difference Between Remote Work and Telework?

The difference between remote work and telework is that in remote work, you can work anywhere regardless of whether there is a physical office location. Where telework, you can work from home or an approved company telework site that is nearby. 

Say, for example, your employer is located in a major city two hours away. Instead of commuting to the headquarters, you are able to perform your work in a smaller branch that is only ten minutes away. This is what telework can look like. 

But with remote work, none of that matters. All that matters is that you are working the allotted hours and performing your work duties, no matter where you are located. 

What is the Difference Between Telecommuting and Remote Work?

The difference between telecommuting and remote work is that with remote work, you can work anywhere in the world and you do not have to be near any company office. With telecommuting, you’ll typically be working from home but should be a sensible distance from the office. 

So as a remote worker, you’ll have more freedom around where you are located. And some companies might even be okay with you when you work too. Meaning you might like working overnight, instead of regular working hours.

But also check with your employer before randomly switching up your work schedule. 

What is the Difference Between Telework and Telecommuting?

Overall, the main difference between telework and telecommuting is that with telework, you are working from home or at an approved worksite nearby to cut down on travel time. With telecommuting, you will potentially go to the main office for a few days and also work from home. 

Generally, these two terms have become interchangeable in today’s modern workplace. As you read already, both are related to working from home and are about using the internet, email, chat, and phone to accomplish the job you were hired to do.

Final Thoughts

While sometimes these terms above are used to describe the same thing, remember that each is a bit different. It may seem nuanced, especially how we describe work today.

And when it comes to your career and preferred working style, you should determine which is your ultimate goal. You don’t want to be surprised to think a telework job was the same as a remote job. 

Maybe all three are interesting to you, which will certainly give you more options in your job search. But either way, telework, telecommuting, and remote work will give you more flexible options in “when” and “how” you work. 

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About Todd Kunsman

Todd is the founder of Remote Work Junkie and has been featured in numerous publications like Business Insider, HuffPost, CNBC, and more. He’s been a remote work advocate for close to a decade and has been working remotely full-time for 5+ years. He’s also a marketing, personal finance, and music nerd 🤓

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