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>> HR Glossary/  General HR Terms / Telecommuting 

What is telecommuting?

Telecommuting, also known as telework, is the act of using technology to attend work from an off-site location. It typically involves employees working from home or other locations outside of the office and communicating with their employers and coworkers via phone, email, instant messaging, video conferencing, or any other online collaboration tools.

Telecommuting vs remote work

Telecommuting is often used interchangeably with remote work, but the two terms don’t necessarily mean the same. Remote work refers to a work style that allows professionals to work from a location completely independent of the employer’s location. This can include working from home, at a coffee shop, or in a coworking space, and often implies that the worker could be in a different city or even a different country.

In contrast, telecommuting typically involves “hybrid” schedules in which employees work outside of the traditional office environment but might still be expected to come into the office periodically. It implies a more flexible arrangement than traditional office work but doesn’t necessarily eliminate the office as a central hub.

The advantages and disadvantages of telecommuting

There are many benefits to telecommuting, but there are an equal number of challenges for both employees and businesses:

Advantages of telecommuting

  • Increases flexibility: Employees can set their own schedules, which improves work-life balance.
  • Saves on costs: Companies save money by reducing office space, while employees save on commuting costs.
  • Increases retention: The flexibility and perks of telecommuting improves job satisfaction and retention rate.
  • Expands the talent pool: Telework enables hiring talent from a broader geographical range. 

Disadvantages of telecommuting

  • Overworking: The blurring of work-life boundaries can lead to longer working hours and burnout.
  • Supervision challenges: Managers may find it harder to oversee and support their teams effectively.
  • Security risks: Sensitive company and customer data is more vulnerable with remote employees accessing systems from home.
  • Communication challenges: Collaborating remotely usually requires greater effort than working with an on-site team.
5 types of telecommuting: full-time, hybrid, freelance, travel and temporary.

Types of telecommuting

Telecommuting has opened many possibilities for working outside the office while still being part of an on-site team. This has created several types of telecommuting represented throughout the workforce:

1. Full-time telecommuting

Full-time telecommuters work entirely from home or another remote location, such as a coffee shop or a coworking space. This type of telecommuting is similar to remote work, but employees may be required to live within the same state as their employer and within a reasonable distance to occasionally come into the office for important events and collaborations.

2. Hybrid telecommuting

Hybrid telecommuting is a mix of working at home and commuting to the office, often on a fixed schedule such as two days at home and three days in the office. This type of telecommuting allows for flexibility while maintaining some in-person office culture and team collaboration.

3. Freelance telecommuting

Freelance telecommuters are self-employed individuals who offer their services on a per-project basis and usually work from home or a personal office. A good example would be a graphic designer who operates from their home studio, managing assignments from various clients, setting their own hours, and utilizing their own equipment to complete projects.

4. Travel telecommuting

Travel telecommuting is when an employee must visit other business sites or client locations and remains in contact with their usual on-site team through technology. Rotational managers, client liaisons, site inspectors, and some types of specialized technicians may engage in travel telecommuting for a certain percentage of days every year.

5. Temporary telecommuting

A temporary telecommuter might work from home or another off-site location on an ad hoc, irregular, or short-term basis rather than permanently. This arrangement might be suitable for employees who are recovering from an injury, or during an extended period of bad weather, among other circumstances.

HR tip

Foster a culture of trust by focusing on outcomes over hours logged when managing telecommuters. Establish clear objectives and empower employees with the necessary tools and support to work effectively from home, demonstrating a belief in their capabilities and respecting their autonomy.

HR best practices when developing a telecommuting policy

Building a telecommuting policy it’s important to foster a culture of trust and set your employees up for success during telecommuting days. Here are some best practices to implement: 

  • Determine positions that can be done through telecommuting all or some of the time
  • Clarify who is eligible using criteria such as tenure, performance, independence, and distance
  • Help your employees design a productive home office environment
  • Prepare an approved and secure set of software tools, including virtual meeting and cloud collaboration platforms
  • Provide training for managers who will oversee telecommuting roles
  • Design a structure for when telecommuting is available or assigned.


Is telecommuting the same as work from home?

While both concepts highlight the ability to work outside of the traditional office space, telecommuting is a broader term that covers a wide range of remote working options, like a coworking space, a coffee shop, or an employee’s home. WFH specifically refers to working from one’s place of residence. 

Does telecommuting mean remote?

No. Telecommuting roles typically require employees to live close to their employer so they can come into the office when needed. However, remote work may allow employees to work at any distance without expectation of time in the office.

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