What’s the Difference Between Remote Work and Telecommuting?

July 6, 2018

remote work at a coffee shop

Remote work and telecommuting are often used interchangeably, but there can be small differences between the two. Remote work suggests that the employee is just that—remotely located. It’s not a technical definition, but it does imply that the employee is too far away from the company to come into the office. They may “work remotely” on a temporary basis, such as while traveling, or they might be a permanent remote worker.

Telecommuting, also called telework, can mean that the employee might be working on-site some of the time. However, they also might never come into the office. Most positions considered “telecommuting” are usually filled by candidates that are geographically close to the business.

Managing these two types of workers can be challenging, but it’s also a necessary management skill as more and more roles are beginning to accept telecommuting or remote work. After all, both setups can drastically lower a company’s overhead, which is one of the costliest expenses.

Remote Work

Working remotely means that a manager needs to supervise someone who is consistently not in the office, and in some cases not even in the same city, state, or country. It can often be even more challenging to manage a remote position which is temporary as opposed to full-time. In a temporary arrangement, both the remote worker and the manager may initially struggle with time differences, poor connections, or lack of in-person communication, leading to miscommunication.

For the manager supervising someone who’s permanently working remotely, some new strategies might need to be adopted. One of the biggest challenges is avoiding miscommunication when you’re not chatting face to face. Fortunately, this can be largely addressed with the latest video conferencing technologies.

A challenge many businesses fear is how they’ll know if a remote worker is actually working. Some positions have clear daily benchmarks. Perhaps the remote worker is expected to complete a certain number of reports or other quantifiable tasks each day. Establishing benchmarks that might not exist with an in-office worker can put management at ease. Managers should avoid attempts to micromanage remotely, such as having high demands of being available on chat during “working hours” because such “glued to the desk” tactics wouldn’t be tolerated by in-office workers, either.

Trust and responsibility are foundational for remote work.


It’s not uncommon for businesses to ask a telecommuting worker who lives in the area to come into the office for regular meetings or to simply be present in the office one day per week. This ensures employees and managers stay in touch, allows for in-person check-ins, and can help the telecommuting worker feel like they’re truly part of the team. Telecommuting is also a highly desirable perk for many job seekers and can help a business attract the best candidates.

Remember that the goal of telecommuting is to ensure employees are happier, more productive (which is bred from happiness), and that overhead is lowered. If employees are expected to come into the office too much, cost savings on that lower overhead can suffer.

Welcome the Remote Workforce

It’s no surprise that the digital era has also ushered in a new wave of the remote workers. Technology has made it possible for many responsibilities to be completed remotely, which can benefit businesses who want a limitless pool of job applicants.

Whether it’s a telecommuting or remote worker, proper management techniques should be integrated into your company before creating these policies.


As a professional copywriter, Dan produces strategic marketing content for startups, digital agencies, and established brands. He helps organizations tell stories, achieve online presence, and builds brands that communicate with their customers. Dan is also a regular contributor to Forbes. He started writing after his first professional role as a health promotions coordinator for a local family physicians office.

Category: HR Tips & Trends, Entrepreneurship

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