What Is Telecommuting? Definition and Guide

what is telecommuting?

Telecommuting (also known as teleworking) refers to the act of completing work assignments from a location other than an office via an internet and phone connection. Instead of commuting to work via some form of transportation, the idea is that the telecommuter can work from wherever they are located, generally from home, thanks to the internet.

With the cost of real estate continuing to rise, companies large and small are opting to allow employees to telecommute at least part of the week, thereby reducing the amount of office space required and the number of parking spaces used. Some companies are going so far as to consist entirely of a remote workforce – everyone on staff is a telecommuter.

See also: What Is a Digital Nomad? And How Can I Become One?

Financial impact

There are a number of savings calculators available that can give you a ballpark estimate of how much your business can save by allowing employees to work from home. WalletHub’s Telework Calculator offers an estimate of how much you’ll save in gas and vehicle wear-and-tear by telecommuting.

Allowing employees to work even half the week from home could save businesses a ton of money on:

  • Commuting time and cost
  • Real estate costs
  • Productivity loss from unscheduled absences

Improved productivity

While many companies fear that allowing their employees to work from home will result in them slacking off, quite the opposite has been found to be true. Thanks to fewer interruptions, telecommuters often get more done during the day, perhaps in part because they are more likely work more than the typical 40-hour week. A Harvard Business School case study found employees at one travel company worked 13.5% more each day – the equivalent of an extra day of work each week. Not only are employees more productive when working from home, they’re also less likely to leave, the more you allow them to telecommute.

Summary of benefits

To the employer, the main benefits of allowing employees to telecommute at least part of the time can include:

  • Reduced workspace needs
  • Lower parking costs
  • Non-existent relocation expenses
  • Higher retention of valued employees

From the employees’ perspective, telecommuting offers:

  • Less time spent commuting via car, train, or other means
  • Lower commuting costs (gas, tolls, subway pass, etc.)
  • Lower wardrobe expenses (from purchase and upkeep)
  • Greater scheduling flexibility (allowing doctor visits to occur without much disruption)
  • Greater work-life balance
  • Reduced chance of illness thanks to sick co-workers

The downsides

While the upsides of telecommuting are numerous, there are still some disadvantages to be weighed:

  • More difficulty collaborating
  • Reduced opportunities for promotion (since employees are out of sight)
  • Greater potential for employees to work less
  • More employee isolation

Thanks in great part to the development of technology that allows employees to connect to work from anywhere, telecommuting is a trend that is expected to continue to shape how – and where - we work.

Telecommuting FAQ

What does telecommuting mean?

Telecommuting is a work arrangement that allows employees to work remotely, usually from home or another location outside of the traditional office. This arrangement can be beneficial to both employers and employees, as it can reduce costs, improve employee productivity, and provide greater flexibility in scheduling.

What are the examples of telecommuting?

  • Working remotely from home.
  • Participating in online meetings and video conferencing.
  • Using virtual office software and collaboration tools.
  • Using cloud-based applications and services.
  • Sending and receiving emails, texts, and instant messages.
  • Participating in webinars, blogs, and other online forums.
  • Working remotely from a remote office or coworking space.
  • Using a VoIP or similar service for telephone communication.
  • Uploading and downloading files to cloud-based storage systems.
  • Accessing company databases and applications through a secure VPN.

What are the types of telecommuting?

  • Full-time telecommuting: Employees work from home or another remote location full-time.
  • Part-time telecommuting: Employees work from home or another remote location part-time.
  • Job sharing: Two or more employees share the same job but work from separate locations.
  • Virtual teams: Teams of employees work together online to collaborate on projects.
  • Flexible hours: Employees have flexible hours that allow them to work outside of traditional office hours.
  • Compressed work week: Employees work longer days with fewer days each week.
  • Travel-based telecommuting: Employees travel to their jobs but work from their remote location.

What is the difference between working from home and telecommuting?

Working from home refers to a situation in which an employee performs all of their work remotely from their home, while telecommuting refers to a situation in which an employee works remotely from any location, including their home, a coworking space, or a cafe. Telecommuting is typically done on a part-time or occasional basis while working from home is more often done full-time.